Does Your Teen Need Counseling? Red Flags to Watch Out For

“All my life I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me. Something missing or damaged.”
“Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants.”
So says Cassandra Clare in her book City of Bones.

The teenage years are fraught with drama, pressures and challenges. It is a time of confusion – where the child transitions into adulthood and is coming into terms with it. There is pressure from inside (as a teen tries to discover his identity and adjusts to changes in his body), from peers (as a teen desires to be accepted by friends) and from parents.

The teen starts to learn more about himself and his environment. The teen may to discover boundaries and new ideas and try to test them. The pressures may further be compounded by events that are beyond the teen’s or his family’s control.

This time may also be a time of growth, where the teen learns to deal with these pressures constructively. When he does this successfully, he is able to emerge from the adolescent years stronger and ready to face the challenges of adulthood. However, there may be instances where a teen meets with challenges and is unable to cope with these in a healthy manner. There may be a need for some outside help, such as individual or family counseling in Utah to help the teen through the issues the face him.

It is important for parents and care givers to know if a teen needs some form of counseling – Utah substance abuse counseling, individual or family counseling or anger management therapy.

A teen may be particularly vulnerable when he has experienced or is experiencing the following:

–          The development of an illness or a disability due to an accident

–          The death or sickness of a loved one

–          Major changes in his life – the breakdown of his parents’ marriage that ends in divorce, moving to another location or school, the loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend, drastic changes in his family’s financial situation.

–          He is a witness to a traumatic incident

–          He is a victim of abuse or bullying

–          She has or has had a teen pregnancy

Also, a teen’s behavior may be his cry for help. If parents are aware and alert, they will be able to see that there is possibly a serious problem that requires Provo counseling. Here are some signs a parent should watch out for:

–          Signs of depression: Extended periods where the teen feels despair, sadness and anger.  These may also be times when a teen is overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Depression may also be manifested in a lack of energy or appetite, changes in sleep and eating patterns, withdrawing from family and friends, as well as a neglect of personal appearance and hygiene. Please note that teens may exhibit signs of sadness or distress and this can be perfectly normal. However, if these feelings persist, they may indicate depression.

–          Pre-occupation with death/suicide: A serious red flag may be a teen’s constant inferences towards death or suicide through jokes, letters, or choice of music. The teen may also discuss this fascination through everyday conversation. Some behavior that also point towards suicidal tendencies would be the sudden giving away of personal possessions that you know they consider valuable or saying “I love you.” or asking, “Will you miss me?” out of the blue.

–          Violent or risky behavior. Bouts of temper, where the teen may start harmful behaviors towards self or others. For instance, he makes use of behavior that intimidates or bullies others or he may try to start a fight.  He may also mistreat or hurt animals, damage other people’s property or may try starting fires.  The teen may also exhibit behavior that is considered risky, such as being sexually promiscuous, being involved in illegal activity or carrying a dangerous weapon. The teen may also try to run away from home.

–          Physical signs. Unexplained weight loss of gain, frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after meals, refusal to join in family meals or a lack of appetite may hint at an eating disorder.

–          Signs of substance abuse. Your child may start experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and drugs. This may be indicated by “strange” behavior, such as brushing his teeth the moment he comes home, his smelling of smoke, beer and alcohol beverages becoming missing.

–          Deteriorating performance in school. There may be a drop in grades, disciplinary problems with persons in authority and truancy.

–          Other behaviors. These negative behaviors include bed-wetting shoplifting, lying, refusing to submit to authorities and at times, breaking curfew or staying out all night.

It is important to understand that there may be an inherent cause as to why a teen behaves in the above manner. This is where therapy and counseling can help. Therapy can help the teen trace the cause of their negative behavior, why their behaviors is negative and how they can make use of tools to change thoughts and behaviors towards the positive. Therapy can also help teens come to terms with the stresses they are experiencing and discover constructive ways by which they can deal with these stressors and problems.

A teenage is especially vulnerable and as parents, we are tasked to safeguard their physical and emotional help as we try to prepare him to face the demands of being an adult. With early intervention and counseling, you can help lead him out through the maze of adolescence, towards a successful future as an adult.

Dr. Triston Morgan, whose practice is based in Provo, Utah, is a licensed therapist with a wealth of experience in dealing with troubled teens. If you are looking for someone to help your teenager deal with the stresses and issues he is going through and you are based in Utah, feel free to contact Dr. Morgan for an initial consultation.

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