Warning Signs: Is your Teen in Trouble?

Is your teen in trouble?

Let’s face it, parenting teenagers not easy but before jumping to conclusions over ‘normal’ teenage behaviour, it is important to understand the reasons why some teenagers make choices that may have a negative impact on their future and how peer pressure influences decision making. If you think your teen may be heading down a dark road or you fear that he or she is already involved in behaviour that is risky or even life threatening, take a look at the warning signs set out below and decide on your plan of action before storming in and potentially pushing your teen further away when they may need you more than ever.

Key warning signs to look out for:

Noticeably withdrawn and not participating in normal family life

Has your previously social child started to alienate him or herself from the family, staying out for long periods or remaining in their bedroom for hours on end without obvious reason? If this is a sudden change, this should send warning signals. Although teens tend to be reclusive at times, secretive behaviour and avoiding family time can also mean that there is an issue that your child is dealing with.

Risky business

Teens will be teens, however risky behaviour such as taking part in acts of vandalism or petty crime such as shoplifting, trespassing, casual sex, truancy or taking money from family members can all signal behaviour that is in danger of escalating to more serious crimes or risky situations. Without instant consequences, they may believe that their actions are not serious or that they can repeat behaviours without getting caught.

Risky business

Teens will be teens, however risky behaviour such as taking part in acts of vandalism or petty crime such as shoplifting, trespassing, casual sex, truancy or taking money from family members can all signal behaviour that is in danger of escalating to more serious crimes or risky situations. Without instant consequences, they may believe that their actions are not serious or that they can repeat behaviours without getting caught.

Mood swings

This can be a tricky indicator as teenagers are inherently moody! This can become more obvious if your once happy go lucky teen has transformed into an angry or taciturn young person. Your teen may simply be facing a change in hormones, neurological differences or a difficult decision in their personal life. Again, this may be something perfectly normal or it could be that your teen is being influenced by others who don’t have your teen’s best interests at heart. Decide on the best way to talk to your teen, reassure them that you’re there and that no matter what is going on, you won’t be angry but you will help.

The precursor – family drug and alcohol abuse

There is evidence to support the higher incidences of drug and alcohol abuse by children and teenagers who come from homes where drug and alcohol abuse is part of family life. Children and teenagers model their behaviour from those who they look to for guidance and support – usually a parent or significant carer. Modelling behaviour that includes the use of drugs, alcohol or other risky activities can be the catalyst for the same behaviour reflected by a teenager as they experiment with their environment.

Teens who start using drugs or alcohol

Teenagers often experiment, for some that is where it ends but for others, early experimentation with drugs and alcohol often leads to habitual use and potential addiction. If you are worried about your teen and suspect that they may be experimenting with or regularly taking part in activities involving the use of drugs and alcohol. This is not about punishing your teen, it is about addressing the situation, educating them about the risks and supporting them through a challenging time.

It’s a number game

Has your teenager been doing well or achieving acceptable grades that have suddenly taken a turn for the worse? Declining grades, less interested in class work and avoiding homework can be signs that your teen is dealing with something more serious in their lives. Many teenagers go through phases where they become distracted; romances and new friends or fights with old ones can sometimes cause temporary upset but ongoing issues at school should be a red flag. Talk to your teen’s teachers and see if they have any clues as to why your teenager may be struggling to achieve the grades they are capable of attaining.

The worst approach a parent can take is denial. Don’t ignore the warning signs and hope that your teen will resolve their problems alone. All teenagers are at risk of succumbing to temptation or peer pressure. Know your teen and know when something is wrong. Discipline has its place in parenting but as your child gets older, they may need more from you than a stern word. Your love, support and guidance will be the true mark of parenting and it can mean the difference between a troubled teen and a happy, well-adjusted young person.

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