Over and over parents everywhere wish there was some type of manual to help them raise their kids. The best manuals many parents have is their own upbringing or advice from others. While this can sometimes be useful it often times doesn’t work because kids and the relationships with them are so varied.
So how does a parent know when there is trouble on the horizon with their teen before it's too late? How do they even know what to look for? One important way to know if there is something going on with your teen is through observation. Paying attention to your child is going to be one of the key factors in knowing whether or not they have any problems going on. So now you know that you need to be observant, but what specifically are you looking for? Here are some things to pay attention to.
Teens are notorious for being hormonal…moody and sometimes irritable. So observation here is key. Do you notice that your teen is more moody than usual? Perhaps they are showing lack of interest in things that normally they would have been excited about. The specific thing to pay attention to is does this mood or lack of interest in things persist over time? If you notice something like this it would be important to have a conversation with them.
Usually, as parents we generally want our children to hang out with other like-minded kids. In my world those are called "pro-social peers". If we have parented in an effective manner our kids usually will hang out with kids that make their lives easier. When teens start to have troubles you will find that the people they hang out with will tend to change. Their peers will often change for the worse rather than the better. Unfortunately drastic peer change doesn't usually lead to good things.
There is a general belief that teens often do not communicate too well. There may be some truth to this, but if you have worked hard to communicate with your kid while you’ve raised them, you should notice if there is an issue with communication. Perhaps they go out of their way to avoid talking to you. Maybe they shut down completely and you have no idea what is going on in their life. It’s important to pay attention to the level of communication to determine if there is a problem. While they may be attempting to solve a problem by not communicating with you, they need to know this isn't the best way to handle things.
If you find that your once sober child is starting to experiment with drugs and/or alcohol, then it’s a pretty good bet that there are some issues that you need to discuss with them. Teens often turn to substances to deal with emotional issues. They don’t have the emotional maturity or knowledge on how to do it and turn to things that will help them deal with these natural emotions. Learning to deal effectively with these emotions is important.
Learning self-control is something that parents should be teaching their children from toddler hood. During the teen years it is so important for a teen to have self-control. This is a time where parents are making attempts to give more freedom. Self-control is something that creates trust between parents and their teens. When you have a child with no self-control with electronics, internet, phone usage or even the kinds of things he/she talks about with friends you have a problem. A teen who lacks self-control is a huge problem. Teens should have some internalized self-control at their age. If they don’t you need to help them figure it out.
While there could be more things that indicate that your teen has a something hard going on in their lives, these are some of the biggies. What I would suggest is that if you find any of these issues going on in your teen’s life then you should seek out help. Help could be a competent therapist trained to work with teens or even a pastor trained to help families. You only have your teen in your life for a short period of time. Getting them help for whatever challenges they are facing could change their lives forever.