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- Low grades or missing school
-Changes in appetite or weight
-Problems with authority
The adolescent years are probably the most challenging ones in our life and in a family's life cycle.
It is a period in life when we experience a lot of physical, emotional, and social changes.
During the teenager years, our bodies experience sudden hormonal increases, which are responsible for growth and sexual development.
Unfortunately, hormones not only affect our bodies, but also our mood, emotions, and behaviors.
It is normal for adolescents to become moody and irritable from time to time; however, if this becomes too frequent, it may be a sign of mental illness.
An important distinction to make is that depression, in children and adolescents, manifests mostly as irritability and not so much as sadness (which is more observable in adult depression).
Teen emotions are not just affected by hormones. Teens have to also learn how to navigate peer pressure and social fitting.
Bullying occurs more frequently than it is reported, specially in middle school and high school, which is something that could lead to long-lasting self-esteem problems.
Adolescents care a lot about their peers and want to be accepted. If conflict with peers occurs, it can feel really devastating in a teenager's heart.
Typically at this age, it is also difficult for our minds to bring together the positive and negative aspects/qualities of the self and others. This is commonly known as black-and-white thinking (or all-or-nothing thinking).
In a nut shell, teens not just tend to feel in extremes, but also think and act in extremes.
As a result, It is common to hear a teenager saying things like, "Everybody hates me"...or "You are the worst mother ever" ... and act consequently.
Finding a balance is quite challenging in a teenager's world. School homework increases at the same rate as the interest for having fun with friends, sleeping or appetite patterns can fluctuate as frequent as mood, and romantic or sexual urges compete with concentration.
Parents usually get concerned about their children refusing to participate in family activities. Now the interests are different and -raise your hand - if your teenager thinks that you as a parent are "always wrong".
Curfew discussions and disagreements may take over family's meals (if teens are able to look away from their cellphone for a moment) and a new fashion style can emerge from a teen's wardrobe.
Teenagers face the challenging task of becoming individuals. This process is known as "separation and individualization". We all have to become an adult one day, with our own personalities, likes, and futures.
To reach adulthood, a teenager has to be able to cut the emotional umbilical cord with his/her family. This requires some pulling and fighting. If you wonder why your teenager is so oppositional, have in mind that the stronger the umbilical cord is, the stronger the fight would need to be to cut it.
An additional challenge for senior students, is the pressure of deciding what they would want to do for the rest of their lives and/or competing for the best universities.
Parents usually ask me "how much is too much" when it comes to their children's behaviors. That is a difficult question to answer because it also depends on a person's point of view and family values.
However, what it seems to be fundamental when observing concerning signs in adolescents, is the frequency and intensity of the symptoms/behaviors as well as the risk involved if not addressing the issues on time.
Frequency and intensity have to also be considered when evaluating the use of drugs and alcohol. These two elements would mark the line between a typical adolescent experimentation and an addiction.
Since the teenager brain is still developing, teenagers tend to act impulsively, without thinking about the possible consequences of their behaviors and choices.
Fitting socially or receiving approval from peers becomes a priority and in many cases, teenagers can engage in risky behaviors that could potentially affect their future.
If you are seeing concerning signs in your child's life or are frequently receiving calls from his/her school, it would be a good plan to make a consultation.
Treatment is strongly recommended when suicidal/homicidal thoughts and self-harm behaviors are present.
If your child lived a traumatic experience (such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, loss, accident, etc.) an evaluation and prompt treatment could make a big difference.
Sometimes, just the regular life stressors can feel significantly overwhelming for you or your teenager.
Teen counseling can simply be a gift to your child, a safe space to vent problems, receive preventive guidance, and feel emotionally supported.
If you are not sure of how to help your teen or feel like you are at the end of the rope as a parent, it is most likely the time to look for professional help.
It is common to try to solve problems by talking with friends or family members. In fact, they are the best emotional support we usually find. But unfortunately, they do not always have the professional training necessary to understand the psychological causes of all our problems or what effective techniques we could utilize to cope with them.
Receiving therapy at a young age can plant the seeds for a flourishing future.
I personally experienced the gifts of attending therapy sessions in my teenage years and I decided to become a therapist myself as a result of it.
Because adolescents typically refuse to hear their parent's advise, counseling is an opportunity to bring an adult's voice into their world.
The tools learned in therapy can be utilized later in adulthood as well. Learning to implement strategies for emotional regulation, can prevent mental illnesses in the future.
Attending therapy at a young age installs in the mind the possibility of reaching out for help in the future if needed. Some adults are unaware of this option and fail to receive support in difficult situations.
Research suggests that one of the number one healing factors in a therapy treatment is the relationship with the therapist. I strongly believe that emotional support is what helps us navigate the challenges of life.
Once a treatment begins, my clients are aware that they could call me 24/7 if a crises arises. Although their treatment may be finished at some point, they are also aware that they could also suddenly reach me in the future if needing support.