The decision to ask for mental health help for your child is never an easy one. We can hope our teens are just going through a phase, are moody or are just in a funk, and that might be the case. However, it’s much easier to find help before you’re facing a crisis. Warning lights go off on our car dashboards prior to an empty gas tank or a transmission failure, and your teens are no different when they are sending you an indication that trouble is brewing behind the missing assignments or excessive sleep patterns.
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s time to find a counselor for your child, these warning signs be just the answer you’ve been seeking.
Four warning signs that may indicate that it's time to get your tween or teen in for counseling.....
1. Conversations with your teen frequently end with slamming doors, yelling, or your teen disappearing.
Conversations that frequently erupt into screaming matches 4-5 times a week inevitably lead to a communication breakdown with your kids. Everyone needs to have someone to confide in, and a therapist can be a neutral third party to diffuse frustration and anger before your teen threatens or attempts to move out or run away.
Many parents say they never knew they had an anger issue until they had teens. Getting a professional involved to offer a fresh perspective and mediate can be the answer to learning effective strategies to make junior and senior high school easier to understand for both students and parents.
2. You suspect or know that your teen is self-harming to manage their emotions and stress.
Self-harming doesn’t just come in the form of cutting as many parents think, it can take the form of hair pulling, eyebrow or eyelash pulling, picking skin or nails with either fingers or tools such as tweezers, nail files or pencil sharpener blades. Any type of self-injury that distracts the teen enough to avoid feeling emotional pain would be included.
Self-injury isn’t just a problem for girls either. Guys are known to participate in these activities as well. Rarely do these behaviors have a direct connection with suicidal ideation, however, they can escalate if left untreated.
3. Their grades begin to drop and their behavior changes.
While this may seem like an easy thing to detect, that isn’t always the case. With the 24/7 access grade monitoring that is available via websites and apps, parents can track grades as they are entered. Grades can fluctuate from an A to an F in 2 school periods based on missing or incomplete homework assignments. Don’t assume your son or daughter is failing algebra because they go from an A to a D in 4 hours. One missing homework assignment that was worth 10 points can significantly lower a grade if the teacher enters a zero as a placeholder. Ask your kids for explanations and look for trends in their study habits.
The same can be true of their behavior. Taking them to get food can leave you feeling like Mom-of-the-Year while a half an hour later you are being berated and yelled at for refusing to allow your son or daughter to purchase concert tickets. Their moods change on a dime, but it is possible to identify changes.
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone on the planet. You’ve raised them and you’ve spent the past 13+ years studying what makes them tick. If something is off, don’t turn a blind eye. There is no value in hiding and waiting for things to get better. You are given a finite number of days with your teens under your roof, if you suspect something is off, seek professional help.
4. You constantly hear about friend problems and suspect there is bullying or harassment of some type going on at school or online.
Tracking our kids every move via GPS or filtering apps may seem like it’s keeping you abreast of all that your teen faces in a school day, but it only gives you a gauge of their physical whereabouts.
Unless they are willing to talk openly about who they follow and engage with on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Visco, Tinder, Bumble or House Party, it’s impossible to know how they are feeling about their interactions with face to face and online friends. Who have they blocked and why? Will they share a few of their direct messages with you?
Most kids have figured out how to appease parents’ friend and follow requests too. Did you know they can accept you as a friend but still withhold access to you viewing their stories? Teens are seeking privacy from their parents and that’s developmentally appropriate, but it’s not okay if they are suffering and you don’t know. Ask hard questions and seek help if you can’t pinpoint their emotional location.
Arranging an appointment for your son or daughter to see a therapist may leave you feeling like you as a parent have failed or your may fear that they will say negative things about you to a stranger. Rest assured that a trained therapist can be one of your child’s best advocates to not only making it through the teens years, but thriving throughout the teen years.
New Hope Counseling has experienced therapists on staff who specialize in treating teens with depression, anxiety, school refusal, self-harm and other mood disorders. Give us a call at 847-220-8428 to schedule an appointment. You can find other contact information here.