The teen years are not easy. Teens are completely different from children and sometimes it feels like you don’t even know them. It can be difficult to deal with their challenging behavior, especially when it seems like just yesterday you were the best parent ever.
Teen years are a time of change, sometimes so drastic, it leaves parents wondering, “Is this typical? Should I be concerned?” Add to this a global pandemic and shifts in how teens can engage in activities, and many of us are scratching our heads.
The Colorado Spirit Team at AllHealth Network is here to support you and your teens. We like the frame Dr. Stuart Goldman offers, “Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents. Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively. It's the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers.”1
Typical, yet awkward and challenging behavior
The rapid shifts Dr. Goldman mentions may look like increased moodiness (due to hormone changes), pulling away from family to be with peers (natural and necessary to social development), an increase in impulsive behaviors (the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control is still developing into our mid-20s), and challenging boundaries to assert independence.
There may be times when teens have insight into these shifts and are willing to talk, whereas other times they might not think anything is different. As parents, our job is to pick our battles and decide what is worth a potential conflict. We recommend focusing on behaviors that can be detrimental and create long-term challenges.
We offer these quick reads for more details about typical behaviors.
Time to be concerned?
While we know impulsiveness, moodiness, testing limits, and pulling away are typical behaviors, it can be difficult to know when your teen crosses a line into a worrisome area. Families may want to seek outside help if their child exhibits the following:
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Worry or sadness that lasts more than a few weeks, especially if there is not a clear activating event
- Withdrawal from peer activities
- Drastic physical changes (sleep patterns, weight, appetite)
- Poor school performance or avoidance of school
- Impulsive behaviors that create safety risks
- Drug or alcohol use
- Feelings that do not fit with the situation or difficulty coping with emotions
This framework aside, we encourage you to “trust your gut.” You know your teen and your instincts are valuable.
If you think a behavior is concerning, reach out to your child’s pediatrician, a school counselor, a mental health professional, the Colorado Crisis Line, or the Colorado Spirit Team at AllHealth Network.
Ways to support
As challenging as it can feel, keep talking to your teen. Engage in respectful conversations about concerns and ask them how you can help.
Sometimes teens just need the adults in their lives to listen, so resist the urge to fix things or give unsolicited advice. Even a gentle approach of “I can see how hard this is right now. Would it be helpful if I gave suggestions or would being quiet and listening help the most?” can send the message that you are there for them and give them the choice about how to engage.
Stress management skills are important for teens too. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers a variety of stress management tips, from exercising regularly and getting enough sleep to rehearsing and practicing stressful situations.4
Also, know that taking care of yourself is vital. Not only will your teens see you practicing the skills that they will need to navigate life’s challenges, but this also helps you weather the storms that supporting a teenager can bring.
The Colorado Spirit Team at AllHealth Network is here for you! Whether it is talking to someone on the team about your child’s behavior or meeting with other parents in a support group, we have you covered! All our support is FREE.
See our complete calendar of events or reach out for an individual connection with a team member.
Connect with Colorado Spirit
- Call: (720) 707-6789
- Email: COSpirit@allhealthnetwork.org
- Webpage: www.allhealthnetwork.org/Colorado-Spirit
- Please follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AHNColoradoSpirit
1 5 Teen Behavior Problems: A Troubleshooting Guide (webmd.com)
2 Typical Teenage Behavior (teenhelp.com)
3 Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making (aacap.org)
4 Stress Management and Teens (aacap.org)