How to raise a healthy happy teen – Part 1: Assessing the risks
The teen years
The teen years span ages 13 to 19 and are traditionally regarded to be a period of time that is characteristically challenging for parents. Research indicates, however, that adolescence is actually a positive experience for both teens and adults. Evidence shows that most adolescents are successful in school, relate well with their families and neighbors, and emerge from their teen years without facing any serious problems. Teens experience intense emotions while their brains continue to develop, however most of this period is not consumed with trouble and confusion. Instead, it is a time of rigorous social, emotional, and cognitive development.
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Parenting Quiz Are You Ready to Raise a Teen? Take this quiz to find out!
The 'typical' teen
Despite the encouraging news, parents often still endure many challenging days with their teens. It is important to distinguish what is regarded as ‘normal’ developmental challenges. Some typical teen attitudes and behaviors are:
- Prefer their own company to yours
- Easily influenced by peers
- Seeking independence
- Generally argumentative
- Inconsistent views and affiliations
- Anxious about the future
Insight into the teenage brain
These challenging attitudes and behaviors can usually be addressed and managed with simple self-help guidelines that most parents will be able to master.
These behaviors need further investigation
There are some behaviors that, if observed in your teen, will require close monitoring and possibly professional intervention:
- Total lack of communication with you and/or family members
- Persistent anger or sadness
- Blatant disregard of house rules
- Excessive sleeping
- Always spending time with delinquent friends
- Loss of interest in normal activities and friends
- Constant aggression towards you and family
- Risky behavior (drinking, smoking, etc.)
- Marked dishonest and manipulative behavior
How parents contribute to the problems
Sometimes, despite their best intentions, parents contribute to their children’s delinquent behavior in the following ways:
- Overindulgence – children who never learn to appreciate what they have (however little) become selfish and difficult to live with. Teenagers who always get their own way expect to be indulged by the rest of the world!
- Overpermissiveness – teenagers need rules, boundaries and clear consequences for breaking rules. Permissive parents are not effective at protecting their children from danger.
- Overcontrol – Teenagers usually rebel against being overly controlled and should be allowed increasingly more autonomy as they become older and more responsible. Remember, we are preparing them to be independent, productive members of society.
- Inconsistency – Parents must remain firm and consistent in the standards they are holding their children to.Teenagers often take advantage of any inconsistencies and attempt to manipulate parents in an effort to get whatever they desire or even avoid penalties.
These commonly occurring parenting practices have very little success. Balance and wisdom will be key factors in deciding how to parent your teen.
When to seek help
If your child has consistently been displaying any of the following behaviors, it is time to seek professional help from a counselor, social worker, psychotherapist or other mental help professional. You may want to invite the help of a trusted family friend or pastor. Though good, their help will not replace the necessary psychological intervention that will be required.
- School teachers/counselors are expressing concern about your teen’s attitudes/behavior
- Your teen’s behavior has drastically deteriorated for over a month
- You feel like you’ve lost control
- Your teen’s mood is low and seemingly lower everyday
- Frequent angry outbursts
- You no longer trust your child
- Your child is unable to account for his/her whereabouts over an extended period of time
- You suspect illegal activity
- All your interventions have been fruitless
The most important thing to remember if you are concerned about how happy or healthy your teen is, there are many very effective ways to address each challenge and see marked improvement. Don’t delay addressing something you are uncomfortable with. Your child’s and your future success and happiness may depend on it!
Stay tuned for Part Two: Rebuilding and maintaining healthy relationships
Is your teen 'at risk' ?
My teen is developing and adjusting in a normal healthy way
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