When your teenager begins to get difficult to handle, it can feel incredibly painful. Almost overnight, your malleable, curious and loving little boy or girl has evolved into a truculent, secretive adolescent who appears to resent practically everything you do or say. A certain amount of change in personality and behaviour is both inevitable and healthy in terms of normal child development, but there are limits, especially when you, your family or your teen are suffering as a result of the new “stranger” in the house.
When things change fast, it’s important to look at the problem full on. The first step is to try to make an objective evaluation of how you think you’re doing when communicating with your teen. Do you feel the two of you are reaching each other, or do you feel there is a communication gap or s/he is keeping something from you?
Look out for the following warning signs:
· Sudden mood swings
· Out of touch with reality
· Low confidence
· Secretive behaviour
· Reclusive tendencies
· Debilitating fears or phobias
· Obsessive behaviour e.g washing, tidying, appearance
· Self destructive actions or language (suicide threats or extreme diet & exercise)
· Drop in school grades
· Violent behaviour
Any of these behaviours exhibited on a regular basis may indicate the existence of a problem. At this point you should consider seeking outside assistance. Don’t be too proud to ask for help – it’s not a mark of having failed as a parent.
Getting Help For Your Teen
If you feel your efforts aren’t working, you might try enlisting the help of friends and family – a grandparent, a favourite aunt or uncle, a well-liked friend of a parent. Remember – teens need and want to have reliable adults to talk to – it’s just that sometimes those adults can’t be their parents! Allow others who care about or like your teen to provide an alternative source of support.
If your child does manage to open up to another family member or friend, work hard at keeping any residual resentment to yourself – the focus needs to be on the long-term goal of helping your teen. It’s not a popularity contest. Even if you involve other people, you still have an important role in your teen’s life. Work on rebuilding back trust on both sides of the relationship.
There are times you need to enlist the help of trained professionals. Don’t wait too long to initiate on this step if you feel your teen is getting beyond control. A delay can be costly in both financial terms and final outcomes, but in what direction should you turn? Consider the following options:
- School cousellors – these professionals deal with teenagers on a daily basis and are an excellent resource. They are also readily accessible to your teen during the school day.
- Private counsellors and psychologists – these professionals have degrees in counselling and therapy. Some specialize in therapy while others focus on testing – you’ll want the former here.
- Social workers – these professionals are often called in to work with families as a group and are quite familiar with emotional problems in a social setting. They can help identify issues related to family dynamics. This can be helpful if there are frequent conflicts at home.
- Psychiatrists – these are medical doctors who are allowed to prescribe medication and can hospitalize patients. Generally this type of professional would only see a teen who had been referred by another professional when there were indications of serious mental disturbance problems.
Funding Counselling For Your Teen
Therapy can become costly, so if you have medical insurance, check whether counselling and psychotherapy are covered.
Don’t allow yourself to immediately be deterred by the potential cost of therapy – there are often solutions to that particular problem, particularly when it comes to therapy for children and adolescents. Don’t forget that school counsellors are usually free. You could also research free clinics and not-for-profit organisations. Some practitioners offer sliding scale pricing for families on low incomes.
How Can The Therapy Hour Help With Your Troubled Teen?
Several of our therapists have extensive experience of working with adolescents, both in schools and via private referral. We provide the following cost-effective services in face-to-face, online, or via email or telephone modes:
- Parental counselling and coaching
Difficult teens can often leave you feeling emotionally battered or a failure a parent. We work to restore a sense of confidence in the ability to parent effectively, with clear coaching and advice as to how things get back on track. We find this approach particularly useful when a teen refuses to engage with a counselling professional themselves.
- Adolescent counselling
We work with teens to establish trust as a reliable, independent adult who will listen to the teen before going on to address the problems which have brought them to therapy. A number of different approaches are used, but in all cases the program of change which is constructed reflects the personality, cognitive and emotional development of the young person rather than employing a “one-size-fits-all technique”. Parents may become involved as counselling progresses, but only when and if the teen his or herself feels ready to include them.
- Family therapy
When one member of a family has emotional or behavioural issues, it effects everyone else. It is often useful to look at the problem from all perspectives and certainly very helpful to family members themselves to witness the effect their often unintentional behaviour has on other people they care for. The process of family therapy is extremely flexible – sometimes it will be just the teen and parents, at other times, it will involve the whole family. It may also be a stage in a process – for example, a parent might start out seeing us alone, then send the teen, before having reflective sessions which involve therapist, teen and parents.
If you’re interested in you or your teen working with us, you can: