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You know that your child needs to eat right, exercise and get enough rest to tend to their physical bodies. However, would you recognize when to be concerned about your teenager and their mental health?
It’s sometimes challenging to differentiate between the hormonal changes of adolescence and signs of deeper trouble. Yet ignoring a problem in hopes your child will grow out of it can have tragic consequences. When should you be concerned about your teenager? Here are nine warning signs.
1. Talk of Death or Dying
Please don’t dismiss your teen’s talk about death or dying as a bid for attention. In a way, it is — because it’s a warning sign they are in crisis.
Take all suicide threats seriously. You can find help and advice by reaching out to the National Suicide Hotline at 833-456-4566. If you or your teen is more comfortable texting, you can reach trained volunteers by sending “start” to 741-741.
Please listen and validate your teen’s emotions, even if they seem exaggerated or hysterical. Prioritize safety by removing any dangerous objects like guns from the immediate area and staying with your teen until the crisis passes. Severe cases may require inpatient psychiatric treatment.
2. Self-Harm or Harming Others
Another warning sign that you should be concerned about your teenager and take immediate intervention is self-harm or causing harm to others. For example, you may notice your teen cutting, carving their skin until it bleeds or using objects like pins to pierce it. Raise the dialogue if you’re unsure — some adolescents are fascinated by piercings and may try DIY techniques.
Causing harm to others warrants professional intervention. You may need to call the authorities if your teen threatens you or other family members with violence. Please don’t think that doing so is cruel. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home, and your intervention could spare your child future legal trouble.
3. Changes in Eating Patterns
The adolescent years bring hormonal changes that can alter your child’s eating patterns. However, pay attention, especially if their consumption slows down instead of speeding up. Many teenagers have voracious appetites to handle the rapid growth occurring during this developmental stage. Losing interest in food can signify depression.
It could also be a sign of an eating disorder, particularly in teenage girls. One out of every ten develops an eating disorder influenced by societal beauty standards. Males report anorexia and bulimia in increasing numbers.
4. Changes in Sleep Patterns
Anxiety and depression can wreak havoc on normal sleep patterns. They can both sap you of energy, making you want to stay in bed all day. However, your teenager could find it impossible to sleep when there.
When should you be concerned? After all, many teens sleep until noon. Most adolescents require around nine hours of sleep per night. They also tend to stay up later and stay in bed longer each morning. However, if they’re coming directly from school to their bedroom to dreamland, it may be time to intervene.
5. Academic Troubles
Many factors can influence a child’s academic performance. For example, the disruptions caused by the pandemic created unprecedented challenges for many families. Some children could not attend class because of a lack of technological resources when learning shifted online. A particularly challenging class can test your child’s confidence and cause a slight overall decline.
However, you should pay attention if your formerly straight-A student starts bringing home C’s and D’s. Schedule a conference with their school if you must, but talk to them first. Try to discern what’s causing the decline.
6. Avoiding Interaction With Others
Did your child stop spending time with their old friendship circle? If so, did you ask if they had fallen out or express interest in what happened? Doing so can let you know if you need to be concerned about your teenager.
For example, your child’s friendships may shift if they start playing a sport or get involved in a club that introduces them to a new circle. However, they may also be isolating themselves, a sign of depression.
Promiscuity can result in teen pregnancy, but it can also be a critical warning sign that you should be concerned with your adolescent’s mental health. Children who were sexually abused as youth are more likely to engage in such behaviors to seek attention and approval.
If your teenager is in a committed relationship, you might want to discuss birth control options and help them obtain them. However, if they demonstrate a pattern of frequent, erratic or dangerous encounters, it’s time to seek professional help.
8. Recent Family Upheaval
The pandemic affected many families. Some parents lost jobs, and the resulting economic stress can strain relationships. Others had to say goodbye to beloved grandparents and cousins.
Recent family upheaval alone isn’t necessarily a warning sign. However, it should tell you to pay closer attention to your child’s behavior and step in to address signs of depression. Keep those communication lines open more than ever, checking in weekly to see how everyone is coping.
9. Disregarding Personal Hygiene
Many teenagers obsess over their appearance. After all, they’re only beginning to enter the dating world. Pay attention if yours becomes disheveled.
It’s normal for teenagers to experiment with different clothing styles — wearing baggy or torn garments from the thrift shop isn’t cause for concern, even if you think they look funky. However, watch out if they stop bathing or washing their hair.
When to Be Concerned About Your Teenager
Adolescence brings many changes. It’s sometimes challenging to tell when you should be concerned about your teenager and when their behavior represents typical adolescent hormonal shifts. However, you should heed the nine warning signs above and take swift intervention to nurture your child’s mental health and prevent minor problems from becoming worse.