Teenagers are odd little creatures, aren’t they? We all know we were teens at one time, but somehow our own teens can seem extra complex, extra emotional, extra challenging, extra confusing…..just so “extra”! I think we can all agree that life is much harder on teens nowadays with social media pressures and exposure to so much more reality way earlier in life, and add in the current pandemic and other current stressors, it’s no wonder our teens are struggling. So we wonder, is what we’re seeing in our teens just usual teenage angst or is this something that they need help with? It can be really hard to tell!
THE TEEN/PARENT COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
It is typical for teens to experience a range of difficult emotions – at times some of them extreme. Throughout the day, one minute, they feel invincible and on top of the world and the next minute, it feels like the world is coming to an end and everything SUCKS!, the next minute that special someone texts and BAM! Everything is amazing and awesome again…until it isn’t. The usual ups and downs of teenage life can leave a parent’s head spinning but to teens, this is their “normal” and it can be maddening for them when their parents freak out over every little thing they say and do.
As a result, teens often shut their parents out because they “just don’t get it” and then parents worry and fill in the blanks when they don’t know what their teen is thinking, feeling, doing, they imagine all kinds of things that could be going on, teens then get exasperated with their parents and shut them out even more.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TEEN NEEDS HELP?
The following signs may indicate that there are concerns in their life that may
not just be part of the usual teenage angst but that might benefit from counseling:
If they seem to be experiencing rapid emotional shifts that leave them feeling out of control and prevent them from generally enjoying life
Problems at school like a sudden drop grades, skipping class, falling way behind in school work
Trouble with peers such as conflict, cyber bullying, feeling left out, difficulty recovering from the loss of a friendship or romantic relationship
Unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, poor body image, restricting food, binging, preoccupation with their shape/size
Social anxiety and isolation
Confusion, struggle, needing additional support and a safe space while figuring out issues of sexual or gender identity.
Intrusive worry thoughts or fears, engaging in ritual or obsessive behaviors, pervasive negative thinking, perfectionism, always appearing to be stressed out
Suicidal thoughts, self-harm or other impulsive/dangerous behaviors, drug use, sexual acting out beyond exploration/experimentation
Pervasive sad or irritable mood, extended crying spells, trouble sleeping or sleeping way too much
HOW CAN COUNSELING HELP TEENS?
I create a safe, accepting and trusting space where teens can begin to feel free to open up, start to learn more about themselves, their choices, and their emotions. I can help them understand that life may come along with some pain, but there is no need to suffer when they can have someone to talk to about it all. It is a great relief to teens when they realize that I don’t judge them, I don’t freak out about what they tell me, I don’t report to their parents everything they say, and that what they needed most all along was just to be heard. They feel so relieved and validated that they’re not “going crazy” but that there are concrete skills they can learn and steps they can take to navigate life and handle tough situations a bit more effectively so they can focus on and enjoy what’s important to them and look forward to the future with confidence.