Your teen has been acting different lately- more withdrawn, irritable, moody. They’re acting out with you. They have a new set of friends and their grades are slipping. Are these just the difficult teenage years that friends and family have long warned you about? Or is your child going through something deeper, like a major life crisis?
What exactly is a crisis? A crisis is anytime your teen is going through something that is negatively impacting their life and mental health in a major way. A crisis for your teen may be different than a crisis for another teen. It could be the struggles of peer pressure, depression, or an eating disorder. It could be suicidal thoughts or substance abuse. And while it seems like these issues would be easy to spot and recognize, that’s not always the case.
How do you know when your teen is in a crisis and not just being a teen?This is one of the most common concerns from parents. Since the teenage years are already full of challenges- the highs and lows of emotions, peer pressure, and difficult questions- recognizing what is “typical” teenage behavior and what isn’t can be a challenge in itself. That’s why we’re sharing five ways to recognize that your teen is in crisis.
Warning signs of a crisis that should raise some serious red flags:
● Unusual moods and emotions. While the teenage years bring a wave of emotional highs and lows, if your teen is acting more irritable, angry or hostile, this is a warning sign. Depression or a mental health issue can also leave your teen feeling sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness. Oftentimes, you’ll see these emotions displayed over a prolonged period of time or in an extreme way.
● Dramatic changes in habits. Depression can cause major changes in eating and sleeping habits, and your teen may experience extreme fatigue and poor energy.
● Withdrawal from the people they care about. Does your teen suddenly have a new group of friends? Have they shared with you the reason why? A sudden withdrawal from friends or family is not anything to take lightly. Mental health issues can lead a young person to withdraw from those they care about, including replacing a group of friends with new friends.
● Lack of interest and motivation. Unusual, dramatic swings in your child’s school performance or a sudden lack of interest in sports or other activities should raise a red flag. Mental health issues can cause a lack of enthusiasm, motivation, and a persistent difficulty concentrating, which could be contributing to your teen’s grades and other hobbies and interests they usually enjoy.
● Comments about dying. While this seems like a no-brainer, comments about dying can come up in sometimes seemingly harmless ways. A teen in crisis might make a joke about dying or romanticize it. Other warning signs are if your teen talks openly about committing suicide or speaks positively about death.
If you notice any of these signs, we encourage you to take a good look at any changes you’re aware of that might be impacting your teen. Sometimes, a new grade or a new school might lead to a new friend group. Or their grades might be slipping because they need some additional educational resources. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that this list of warning signs are symptoms that are usually displayed in a prolonged amount of time and in an extreme way.
While many of these warning signs can appear now and then during the teen years, remember that you know your child better than anyone else. And you’ll be the most likely to recognize when they’re in serious need of help. Talk to your teen and see how they’re feeling, but if you’re genuinely concerned, don’t let them tell you differently.
What do I do if my teen is in crisis? There’s so much more to addressing this than what we can share here, but first and foremost, identify whether you need to seek immediate help for your child. And if you do, please reach out to us or connect with other helpful resources in the Juneau area:
Remember, your teen is still the person you know and raised, and your job is to help them navigate a crisis with your love and support.