The teenage years are filled with many possible pitfalls. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution. Parents just need to prepare themselves to get help for their teenagers when life issues seem to overwhelm or cause them unhappiness. Support for both teenagers and their parents should come early on — before a problem has a chance to overtake their lives.
Identify and isolate the problem. When a teenager is troubled, it’s possible that all sorts of unrelated complaints and emotions cloud the real issue. That issue could be anything from problems with peer pressure, bullying or academic problems at school to family or relationship troubles. More seriously, there may be drug, alcohol or depression issues. Even though parents have the best interests of their teenagers at heart, it may be necessary to get help from a grandparent, an older sibling, a trusted teacher or other individual the teenager trusts to help identify the core of his stress and unhappiness.
Contact your teenager’s physician or pediatrician for two reasons. First, it’s vital to find out if there are any underlying physical problems that may be contributing to the situation. A routine physical exam and lab work may reveal these; for example, a teenager may be anemic, and iron deficiency can cause an inability to concentrate, focus and think things out clearly. Second, a pediatrician will most likely be able to provide you with a list of appropriate resources for getting help with your teenager’s issues.
Check out the possibilities for help at your teenager’s high school, but do so cautiously. It’s vital to make sure that your inquiries will be kept confidential. Keep in mind the fact that teachers generally see each student only five hours a week, so their perspectives are limited. Many high school counselors limit the bulk of their advising to academic matters, but they would probably be able to suggest some resources. Some high schools (or school districts) offer the services of a staff psychologist. Another possibility for help from school is to approach a coach or activity sponsor who your teenager admires. These individuals see kids in non-academic settings for longer periods of time than classroom teachers and may have valuable insight and advice.
Check out community resources. Your own church, synagogue or other religious organization may be able to provide you with counseling or other help. Advisers to youth groups in various community organizations, such as scouting or 4H, are other possibilities. Child psychologists who specialize in teenage issues can often give kids — and their parents — specific ideas on how to deal with and tackle problems.
Look into support groups for specific issues. Your teenager may find great comfort in joining one of these groups and may even make new friends who are facing the same issues in their lives. However, if kids are adamantly opposed to this idea, they should not be forced to do so. Be wary of online support groups unless you are able to check them out thoroughly.