In my practice I do a lot of teen therapy and I have noticed in a few issues many parents face. It can be hard to know what role to play when your child is growing up and needs more independent. I have outlined a few tips I’ve learned working with these types of clients.

Respecting your teens privacy and space.

Your teens prefer to have time and space either alone or with friends.  As parents you can be on the lookout for opportunities to engage with your teenager. 

Oftentimes, these are late at night or when you least expect it. Practice asking open ended questions and limit questions right after school.  Be open and honest (within reason) regarding your teenage years, this will help build trust between you and your teen.  Get to know your teen’s friends. Invite them over and cook a meal, order pizza, or make brownies. A creative parent can engage with teenagers while still maintaining the desired privacy of a teenager’s world. 

Influence in decision making.

Adolescents are in the process of maturing and becoming independence.

Creating opportunities for your teens to participate in decision making will help shape their critical thinking skills, build rapport, and demonstrate respect within the relationship.  

Example:  Discussion of curfew in high school years.  Make a list of pros and cons regarding proposed times. Evaluate options and make a plan. Possibly allow for extended curfew on special occasions/improved grades/respectful attitude among family members.  Ongoing communication is key!  

Establishing healthy boundaries during the teen years takes practice and requires much patience.  Expect there to be ups and downs, be willing to make changes as needed, and know that it’s okay to make mistakes.  Parents that choose to hold their teens accountable within a loving environment foster responsibility and resilience. 

Withdrawn vs typical teen behavior.

Teenagers often display big feelings and reactions! 

What is considered normal?  When do you need to seek help from a therapist who specializes in adolescents?   It is normal for teenagers to sleep more, make poor choices in eating habits, display “moody” behavior, and at times turn your world upside down.  Watching for changes in these normal adolescent behaviors can help you identify when it might be time to seek help. The adolescent brain is working in overtime as transformation is taking place and studies show half of all genetic mental disorders begin to develop by age 14. 

Here is what anxiety/depression can look like:

  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Sleeping more than normal or not being able to fall or stay asleep.
  • Angry outbursts over small matters.
  • Overall disruption within family dynamics.
  • Changes in friend groups/having no plans with friends.
  • Withdrawn more than usual.
  • Not turning in assignments/drop in overall grades.

If your teenager is exhibiting any of these signs and your gut tells you something seems “off” it is time to find support.  Normal adolescent behavior vs. possible signs of a mood disorder can be determined by a mental health therapist.  

Working alongside families with teenagers is something I’m passionate about. Whether it is meeting with teens on an individual basis or providing additional education and resources for parents, I meet my clients where they are. Reach out today for afternoon and evening sessions.