Behavioral Problems in Teenagers

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Parenting teens is difficult work even when your kids have only minor behavioral problems. Nearly every teen has challenging moments, whether it’s as simple a problem as missing a curfew or as potentially serious as drug or alcohol abuse. With a bit of luck and some understanding, you can see your teen through these years with both your sanity and your relationship intact.


What’s Normal

Teens rebel or distance themselves from their parents to find their own identity. Even if you were quite close when your teen was younger, he may choose his friends over his family now. Many kids become less compliant, question rules, and argue more. Moodiness is common during the teen years, and even seemingly minor issues can cause a significant emotional response. For most teens, the rebellious phase simmers down by 16 or 17, and you will begin to see the young adult your child is becoming.

Letting Go

Reduce behavioral problems by learning not to sweat the small stuff. Try not to worry about hair dye, clothing choices, or appearances. Allow your teen privacy and avoid monitoring phone calls, text messages and emails, unless you have significant concerns about his well-being. If your child is doing well in school and functioning as a part of the family, don’t worry about her attachment to her cell phone or how much time she spends on the computer.

Setting Limits

Teens do need limits, but it’s important that you set reasonable limits and expectations. Talk to her about house rules and take the time to talk to her friends’ parents about curfews and rules, so hers are in line with what is acceptable in your community. If all of his friends have an 11 p.m. curfew and his is hours earlier, he may be more inclined to complain or not come home on time. Have consequences in place and enforce them when your teen violates the rules. Reward your child when he shows responsibility and meet your expectations by allowing them additional freedom.

Maintaining Relationships

While most families experience challenges during the teen years, maintaining a loving relationship with your teen is essential. Talk with your teen. Take time to listen and hear his thoughts and opinions. Share honest, accurate information and your expectations regarding sexuality, drug use and alcohol. Avoid belittling problems or concerns he may have. Even during difficult times, remind her that you love her unconditionally and are available to listen whenever she wants to talk. Maintaining open communication about important issues can reduce the risk of serious concerns during the teen years.

When to Worry

While moodiness and changes in behavior or personality go along with the teen years, there are some warning signs that may indicate a more serious problem. If you notice that your child is gaining or losing a substantial amount of weight or his sleep patterns have changed dramatically, consider seeing his health care provider. If she’s failing classes, skipping school or is in legal trouble, additional support services can help get her on the right track. Sudden changes in friends or rapid changes in personality are a concern. Seek immediate mental health care if he talks about suicide or wanting to die. Signs of tobacco, drug and alcohol use are also a concern during the teen years.

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