Is my teenager normal or do we need help?
Parents sometimes wonder if their teenager is just being a normal teen, or whether they are struggling enough that they may need help.
Normal teenagers may be moody at times, and may be short tempered, especially when the parents are setting appropriate limits. The teenager’s friends become the focus of their life, and family activities become less important. Sometimes they seem embarrassed to be with their parents and siblings. Many teens use angry responses to get some distance from their parents, when mom or dad ask too many questions, or want to know too many details about their friends. However, normal teenagers should still enjoy a number of activities, and they should have fun when they are with their friends, smiling and laughing. While they may be fickle with their own family, they should have good relationships with other adults, including some teachers. Even rebellious teenagers will enjoy a few activities with a parent or a sibling. Most teenagers will talk with their parents about their feelings intermittently. School is the “workplace” for teenagers, and they should be able to function in school at the level they have in the past. Teens may be distraught when they are having difficulty with girlfriend/boyfriend problems, or when they are fighting with a friend, but they should not be chronically depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed.
Teenagers who withdraw socially from peers, have a decline in grades, and appear irritable with adults are in trouble. Unfortunately many teenagers experiment with alcohol or drugs, but when their use continues despite negative consequences, and parents must intervene. A quick question for a teenager “What percentage of the time are you happy?” Another question “What are you enjoying about your life?” If the teen is not happy most of the time, or if joy is missing from their life, they need professional help. If they are having suicidal or aggressive thoughts, they may need immediate attention.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800- 273 –TALK (8255)