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Whether your family is facing food or housing insecurity, dealing with underemployment, rising healthcare costs, or even the pervasive yet impactful effects of social media burnout, chances are you are facing some form of adversity or stress. These stressors can have detrimental physical, mental, and emotional impact on adults, let alone teenaged children and adolescents.
As a parent, it's easy to feel concerned about your teen's emotional well-being and how it will impact their future outlook. What's harder is identifying regular adolescent mood swings versus serious anger issues you should take note of. Of course you don't want to overreact, yet at the same time you can't ignore a cry for help from your troubled teen. For some basic tips on recognizing warning signs, maintaining a stable and supportive home environment, and when or if you should involve professional help, keep reading.
Is it angst or anger? Recognizing Warning Signs
Sometimes your teenager's mood will change so quickly, you feel like you have whiplash. These mood swings are typical once your child enters puberty. Their bodies are busy producing sex hormones, like estrogen and progesterone in girls or testosterone in boys. These hormones jump start physical and emotional changes in your teen's body that can feel uncomfortable, irritating, or just plain gross to them. You don't need to freak out over every behavioral change, but there are a few key warning signs that signal your child might need more support. Fortunately, these are easy to spot. Here's what to keep an eye out for:
- Self destructive behavior: Cutting, drug use, binge eating, or habitually under-eating can indicate a deeper psychological problem, like depression.
- Violent rebellion: Lots of fights at home or in school, bullying, and animal cruelty can indicate a serious anger issue and should definitely be addressed.
- All new friends: No interest in old friends or previously enjoyable activities could mean your teen's new crowd encourages destructive behavior.
This doesn't mean you need to seek out professional help if your kid suddenly doesn't want to go to Sunday school anymore or takes a pass on seeing Disney on Ice for the twelfth time. Children grow up and their interests change, and as long as you're providing a stable, supportive home environment, they will likely feel comfortable discussing these changes with you in time.
Creating a Stable and Supportive Home Environment
Adolescents need consistency. Their entire lives are changing—even their bodies are transforming in ways they can't control. As a parent, it's your job to provide them with stability by being consistent when it comes to boundaries. Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. If your teen misbehaves or steps over the boundary you've established, don't hesitate to discipline them. This helps teens learn that there are consequences to their actions, a lesson they will need later in life.
When to Involve a Professional
If your child's unhealthy activity is escalating or they are engaging in physically dangerous activities, it might be time to reach out to a professional. There are lots of ways to get help if you feel that your child is struggling, from behavioral therapy to schools for troubled teens. The most important thing is for you as a parent to accept that your child has a real problem and this is not a passing phase. Your denial can inhibit your child's ability to heal. A good first step is to ask your family practice doctor to recommend a counselor who specializes in working with teens.
There really are no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting. At the end of the day, you know your child best, so if your gut tells you something isn't adding up, you're probably right. As long as you're supportive and engaged, your teen will eventually appreciate how much you care about their emotional well being. By paying attention to the warning signs and seeking help if needed, you can give your children a bright future, even in uncertain times.