Troubled Teen: 5 Tips For Getting Through It
Many parents anticipate smooth sailing after all the physical attention required when children are young. As a result, when their offspring enter their troubled teen years, parents often feel blindsided by the subsequent confusion and misunderstandings. In fact, your teen children may have reached adult size, but their brains are still in a state of development. Adults are more adept at using the frontal cortex to facilitate logic and reasoning, but teen brains are still restructuring and have not yet reached maturity. Teens process information differently, and they are also subject to hormonal influence.
The natural physical and emotional changes that teens go through mean that their behavior is likely to change as well. Many growing teens distance themselves from their parents, exhibit mood swings, display more anger and impatience, change their appearance, and even sample cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Parenting today’s teens always poses a challenge. However, there is a difference between the normal changes that teens go through and the behavior of troubled teens.
Warning signs that teens may be troubled include profound personality changes, failing grades, extreme weight changes, indications of cutting or other self-harm, violent behavior, problems with the law, and habitual alcohol or drug use. Often professional help is needed in coping with these situations. Additionally, though, you’ll need exceptional parenting skills to help pull your troubled teen through. Here are some tips to help you accomplish this.
1. Make Ongoing Efforts to Communicate with Your Troubled Teen
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Regardless of outward circumstances, always keep communication channels open with troubled teens. They need to know that parents are always there for them. If possible, set up situations that facilitate dialog such as mealtimes without media interference. You may often receive no more than monosyllabic responses, but it is your availability that is important. Participating in watching movies, playing sports, or doing other activities that you both enjoy can stimulate openness and acceptance. However, avoid attempts at communication when you are upset or angry. Instead, you need to project calmness and confidence. When your teen is willing to talk, listen without being judgmental, and avoid the temptation to offer unwanted advice. Having someone to share their discordant emotions with is a great help for troubled teens. Sometimes you may meet with rejection when you attempt to communicate. Don’t give up; instead, let some time pass and then try again.
2. Provide Balance for Troubled Teens
Troubled teens are often in a continual state of unease. You can help them with this by creating and sustaining a balanced lifestyle. Part of this may involve improving your own habits as well. For instance, cut down on junk food. Purchase and prepare healthy food options. Eating healthily will assist in improving their energy and sharpening their thoughts. Encourage your teen to exercise as much as possible. Offer to provide transportation or even join them if it helps them get out of the house. If possible, be sure they get enough sleep. Even if they tend to object or rebel, create schedules that include regular bedtimes and mealtimes. This also involves a limitation on screen time.
3. Watch for Signs of Depression
Numerous behaviors that teens exhibit may be manifestations of serious problems such as depression. This can be debilitating, so it is important that parents are aware of the symptoms so they can help their teens if they are depressed. One sign of depression is low self-esteem. Your teen may feel failure, shame, or extreme sensitivity to criticism. Other indications include problems at school such as low grades or poor attendance, addiction to computers and smartphones, and abuse of alcohol or drugs. In extreme cases, teens may manifest a plea for help by running away from home. There are programs for troubled teens that help them deal with depression, but the first step is to recognize the problem.
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4. Assist Them in Coping with Aggressive Behavior
It is not unusual for troubled teens to demonstrate pent-up anger by shouting at parents as well as performing acts of violence such as slamming doors, punching walls, and throwing things. They use their anger as a cover-up for shame, vulnerability, embarrassment, and other underlying feelings. Regardless of the motivations, however, such aggressive behavior has to be dealt with. First of all, parents should always keep their own anger in check. Responding to anger with anger does nothing to help your teen. Instead, see if there is a cause for the anger that you can address. Help your teen become aware of warning signs that they are about to erupt in anger so they can take conscious steps to calm down. If your teen does need to calm down, allow them to retreat to a private place. Regardless of the reasons for the anger, though, teens need to understand their boundaries and be aware that if they give in and manifest their anger in violence, there will be consequences.
5. Don’t Neglect Self-Care
Coping with the behavior of a troubled teen can be stressful, so it is imperative that parents should take good care of their own physical and emotional needs. Learn some relaxation techniques and practice them regularly. Talk about your frustrations and anxiety with trusted friends, relatives, counselors, or religious leaders, especially if you are a single parent who is going it alone. If you have other children, be sure that you do not neglect them during the intensive struggle in coping with your troubled teen.
Remember that these years are temporary and that teens eventually pass on to adulthood. Also be aware that professional help is available if your teen needs assistance that you are unable to provide. If you see the need, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a counselor, doctor, therapist, or other mental health specialist.