10 signs that your teenage child may be asking for help
A teenager is someone who belongs to the age range of 13 to 18 years old. Teenagers as we rightly call it as teens or adolescent phase is a phase which marks the change from childhood to adulthood.This is a phase where teenagers go through many changes such as physical, social, emotional and cognitive changes.
- Physical changes- Development of muscles, growth of hair in pubic/genital region, chest and underarms region. There is an increase in strength and stamina, bones become harder and tissue growth is seen. In boys, Adam’s apple becomes more prominent. In girls, there is development of breast and nipples seen along with the widening of hips. Reproductive organs enlarge. Girls start with menstrual cycle where as nocturnal emission is seen in boys- phenomena where semen is discharged from the penis during ejaculation while teenager is asleep. Due to the effects of male and female hormones, a teenager boy is physically capable of fathering a child and teenage girls are physically capable of getting pregnant.
- Social changes- Peers becoming more important.
- Emotional changes- Frequent mood swings or extreme forms of expression of emotions like acting defiantly.
- Cognitive changes- Thinking, imagination and reasoning skills improve. They begin to analyse and challenge information and show skills for abstract reasoning etc.
With so many changes taking place, this phase can be stressful, uncomfortable and confusing for many. To make it worst, many, a time teenagers are often misunderstood- they are treated like children but are expected to act like an adult, further confusing them on how to really behave.
How to identify when a teenager is going through normal teenage stress or really has
mental health issues?
Most parents struggle with these questions. They want to help their teens, but at the same time don’t know how. They want to give them freedom, support and space to grow, but at the same time place restrictions to teach them etiquettes. They don’t know when to help or seek help and when to let go.
Here are 10 signs indicating that your teenage child may be asking for help:
- Withdrawal: As mentioned above, teenage is a phase where friends hold a special place. Social circle becomes more important. But if you see your teenager avoiding social functions all together and spending weeks at home with no contact with friends, then this can be a sign that your teen might need help. This help can be towards resolving conflict with friends or helping in catharsis.
- Peer pressure: To feel accepted in peer circle, teenagers give into the peer pressure and try bullying others, smoking cigarettes, consuming drugs and alcohol. It often start off with one trial- experimenting, to show how ‘cool’ they are and then continued leading to habituation.
- Risky behaviours: If you find your teenager getting involved in underage rash driving, harming themselves or others. If they go through gambling, frequently absent from home or high school, it’s a sign that your teenager needs professional help in managing their impulses.
- Sexual activities: With hormonal changes, feeling sexually attracted towards other people is very common. Many teenagers start dating at this age with a few leading to romantic and physical intimacy. Many a times, due to a lack of knowledge, emotional maturity and not using contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies occur. If you find your teenage child in such scenarios, it’s important to seek professional help for psycho-education to deal with any associated emotion.
- Frequent Mood swings: Getting angry, irritated, swearing and feeling depressed is very common in adolescent phase. So, if you see your teenager struggling to cope with their emotions, then it’s a sign that your teenager needs professional help.
- Sudden drop in scholastic performance: If your teenage son/daughter begins to lag in scholastic and other ventures, then he/she might be in stress and need help.
- Eating issues: If your teenager seems to be avoiding food or is overeating, then it can be sign of eating disorders for which seeking professional help is necessary.
- Self image: If you find your teenager checking themself in the mirror frequently, expressing dislike for specific body parts or dwelling on how much weight they have gained or lost, then seeking professional help for poor body image is important.
- Sleep patterns: If you see your teenager sleeping excessively during the day time or finding difficult to sleep, then it is important to seek help. These could be signs of depression or anxiety.
- Defiance: Teenagers seeking autonomy start rebelling during the teenage years. Hence, placing restrictions on them or constantly asking them to do what they are avoiding can lead to defiant behaviour. But, if this behaviour becomes the only way of expressing themselves leading to frequent verbal arguments and rifts in family. The best thing to do in this situation is for the teenager as well as the other family members involved to seek help.
Ajeeta Mulye is a psychologist and outreach associate at Mpower.