When a teen needs help who do they turn to? Many adolescents have trouble expressing that they are unhappy so we look to their behaviors as indicators that there is a problem. School performance is often a key indicator as well as increased conflict with siblings, peers and authority figures. Other indicators include physical symptoms or medical conditions that become the focus of attention. Sometimes adolescents simply don’t have the language to communicate how they are feeling, or don’t feel comfortable or safe telling others how they feel.
Too often, parents push their adolescents away in an effort to control their behavior or their life. Teens have an inherent desire toward individuation or autonomy while being dependent on their caregivers simultaneously. This developmental dance begins as children and is still in play throughout adolescences. Parents can get tricked by their teenager’s plea for independence and feel pushed away by them only to be pulled back into their life through decreased school performance or behavioral change
If a parent notices something wrong with their teen there are many effective things that can be done.
- Focus on your teenager with unconditional love, compassion and support. Put aside any critical thoughts and comments. Remember, your communication style or approach could be a factor in why they are unhappy.
- Keep your feelings and emotional state calm and relaxed. Adolescents are experts at picking up on your emotional states. They are continually checking the world around them to see if it is safe.
- Ask them if there is anything that they are sad about or that they feel happy about. Asking with the assumption that there is a problem could push them away as a defensive move. So simply ask in a way that conveys that you reallywant to understand their world.
Seeking professional help is advised when parents or other authority figure have not yielded the desired change.
My approach to working with adolescents is to help them feel that I am an ally who will listen to their concerns. After taking a careful assessment of a teenager’s developmental and family history, I develop a thorough understanding of the presenting problem, then move on to discover a teenager’s strengths and personal goals. When adolescents shift their thoughts from the negative toward the positive, they become enthusiastic about them.
It’s much more enjoyable to move toward a positive outcome then only focus on negative past experiences.