Does My Teenager Need Counseling?
Adolescence is a time when kids are attempting to individuate from their parents. In short, teens are attempting to spread their wings and leave the nest. Leaving the proverbial “nest” is age-appropriate, but how do we know if our kids are practicing age-appropriate behaviors. You may find yourself asking, does my teenager need counseling?
Changes in Thoughts and Behaviors:
Normal: Lots of teens during this stage question why they are here, what is their purpose, why and/if they are loved and would they be missed if they were not around. Questions about death and dying are normal. Wishes to “die” are not uncommon during this time however these thoughts become concerning when the teens specific plans. Talk with your teen to determine if they want to “escape” the situation or do they truly want to hurt themselves.
*Specific plans, intent, or means for self-harm such as cutting and mutilation
*Signs of depression
*Risky behaviors such as drug/alcohol use, illegal activities
*Sexually acting out
*Running away and/or complete disregard for boundaries
*Extreme changes in grades
Changes in Parent Interactions:
Normal Changes: Parents may feel that their kids “don’t want to hang out with us like before” but this is normal in this stage of development and will likely change as they mature. Teenagers during this stage my shy away from being hugged by parents in public. Stay connected when you can, and your teens will mature and be more comfortable with parent interactions in time.
NOT Normal: Teenagers who have intense disdain for parents and/or people of authority. Kids who start to isolate and refuse to participate in activities that most teens enjoy can be a warning sign that the teen needs counseling.
Sudden Mood Swings:
Normal: Teenage years are a time of dramatic change, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Mood swings are a normal part of the process and can be seen as a transition from childhood to adulthood. Teens are learning to navigate friendships while having to balance other responsibilities such as schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, and social media.
NOT Normal: Some teenagers struggle to manage mood swings and while emotions such as sadness, frustration, and anxiety are very common during this time, if these symptoms persist and/or your teen does not have the adequate coping skills to manage these intense feelings, parents should contact a counselor.
Supporting your teen will be very helpful as they navigate this transition, however, if you feel that your teen is struggling outside of the “normal” thoughts and behaviors, it is likely time to seek counseling.