Adolescence is a very challenging phase. Though it may be a time for exploration and new experiences, it is also a period of uncertainty and doubt for most teens, both internally and about the world. The physical changes, growing emotional desires, added responsibility, and the influence of peers can make things difficult for a teen – even if they seem to be doing well.
Diagnostic interview data, taken between 2001 and 2004 by the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, showed that roughly 31.9% of teens in the USA, aged 13 to 18, had an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, in 2016, around 3.1 million teens, aged 12 to 17, also in the US had a major depressive episode. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017)
Such figures are clearly alarming as these adolescents are just beginning their life and should not be burdened by such mental concerns. And yet, this is the sad reality of society now as their parents and other loved ones are often unable to notice and address the telltale signs.
Teen Problems that Others Usually Fail to See
The following are some key areas that guardians may easily overlook, believing that teens are just being teens.
Teenagers are generally labeled as “moody” as they struggle to adjust physically and emotionally to their new circumstances in life. Many guardians can easily relate to such feelings as they were once like that before.
However, prolonged bouts of irritability are not normal and may be a sign that something else, like depression or anxiety, may be at play. The same is true for a teen that wishes to be left alone all the time (isolation). Moreover, such underlying causes may be present despite the teen being seemingly happy with their friends. Sometimes such “happy times” with their peers may simply be momentary breaks from their internal gloom.
Similar to “moodiness,” a teen with prolonged periods of rude behavior, especially if they start getting into trouble in school, should not just be viewed as a “phase teens go through.” The teen may, in fact, be dealing with anger management issues that they do not know how to control. Depression is another possibility as irritability is one of depression’s symptoms.
Frequent lying is another attitude problem that may be connected to something deeper within. Guardians should get to the bottom of things quickly as it becomes harder to tell what is wrong once the lies persist.
Relational Problems (Teenage Drama)
While it is expected that relational problems will occur, these should not be simply dismissed as the usual teenage drama. Frequent problems with others (e.g. arguments, fights, complaints) can mean that something else is present like bullying, depression, or anxiety.
Furthermore, a sudden change of a teen’s circle of friends can also be a sign of relational problems connected to hidden emotional or mental issues, especially if the new friends are the sort that guardians would not readily approve of.
Obsessive Use of Technology
“Gadget addicts” may be one way to describe today’s youth as they have a variety of entertaining and informative applications on their phones and tablets. However, it is possible that there is something more to a teen’s overuse of technology. Some resort to just staring at the screen to help them deal with emotional issues or highly anxious thoughts since they were not taught how to cope properly. Others may rely on their screen identities to hide their insecurities.
Something that many guardians usually fear as their teen enters middle school and/or high school is the loss of interest in studying as their teen becomes distracted by other things. But though laziness does occur, sometimes a drop in grades or lack of motivation at school can be a sign of something else.
One factor of depression is a lack of motivation which is something guardians need to take note of. Anxiety due to home or school expectations is another possibility. There is also a chance that the teen may have undiagnosed ADHD which is why they cannot submit assignments and have difficulty paying attention in their classes.
Frequent Physical Complaints and Changes
Mental and emotional problems often have physical manifestations. Frequent body pains such as headaches, shoulder aches, or stomach aches can be a sign of deeper issues.
An increase or decrease in a teen’s weight can be an indicator of depression, anxiety, or anorexia. Additionally, a change in the teen’s hygiene, particularly when it becomes worse, can also be a sign of emotional issues the teen may be facing.
Some Useful Tips to Help with Teen Problems
Fortunately, there are things parents and other responsible adults can do to help with teen problems.
1. Educate oneself on teenage emotional, mental, and physical health.
This will give guardians knowledge about what things to expect and watch out for in the adolescent years. Proper preparation can prevent much emotional pain in the family. Thankfully, there are a lot of books, magazines, and online sites that provide information on this.
2. Create a safe home environment where the teenager can safely express themselves.
When guardians are overly critical or are unavailable (emotionally or physically), the usual response is for the teen to clam up or turn to their friends. If guardians want to guide and protect their teen well, it all begins by having a loving home.
A safe home environment also includes realistic expectations, which should be clearly communicated, about what guardians expect from their teen. Just like the rules in school and among friends, teens want to know what is expected of them so they can do their best to achieve them.
3. Communicate more with the teen, especially if emotional or mental issues are suspected.
While this may be difficult for some guardians, it is imperative that something is done to know more about what the teen is going through. So ask questions, share stories, and find ways to get them to open up.
Once communication has been established, it becomes easier to then teach them how to manage their emotions properly or deal with whatever issue is disturbing them. But without open communication, such advice will just go out the door.
4. Model how to set and maintain healthy boundaries.
Children, including one’s teenagers, can discern the difference between what adults say and what they actually do. Thus, it is important for guardians to have the right boundaries as well in their relationships, activities, and even in their use of technology. If the guardians can walk the talk, chances are the teen will follow.
5. Introduce mindfulness exercises.
The ability to control one’s thoughts and emotions is very helpful as a teen and as an adult. Guardians ought to introduce mindfulness exercises so the teen can learn how to focus on what is needed and not be overwhelmed by any inner conflict. Many online resources can help with this.
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Seek Christian Counseling for Teen Problems
Despite the availability of resource materials to help, it can be quite a struggle to deal with teenage issues, especially if there is an underlying mental or emotional problem.
In such cases, it is important to seek professional help as the therapist will know what to do, particularly if there are dangers such as self-hate, suicidal thoughts, or aggression against others. Sometimes these deep emotional problems may even require medication which is why only trained therapists should be sought out.
However, a better choice is to seek Christian counseling for teens with problems. In Christian counseling, the faith-based counselor will also use the latest in counseling methods to get the teen to share their inner concerns and work towards a solution.
But more importantly, the teen will be introduced to the saving power of Christ through prayer and meditation on the Bible. By doing so, the teen has a much better chance at full recovery – physically, emotionally, and spiritually; and the chances of succumbing again in the future will be lessened since they know that they can rely on God.
If you know of a teen who is struggling with the above-mentioned teenage problems, seek help soon. Such issues can be resolved if action is taken sooner rather than later.
“Strong,” courtesy of Christopher Campbell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Girl on a Log,” Courtesy of Sergei Zolkin, Unsplash.com; “Facing change,” courtesy of Suleman Mukhtar, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter,” courtesy of Mario Campello, flickr.com CreativeCommons