When you’re raising a teenager, it’s hard to know for sure about a lot of things.
One day they’re playing guitar and want to be a musician. The next day they’ve discovered kung-fu.
And it can seem as if their emotions are splashed all over a wall like an abstract painting.
All of this can make it hard for parents to know when it’s the right time for counseling for a teenager.
You don’t want to seem like you’re overreacting, but on the other hand, you have either read or heard about what happens when you wait too long to start teen therapy.
What should you do?
Consider these ideas for when to know it’s time for teen counseling.
You See Dramatic Changes in Your Teen’s Life
One way to know it might be time for teen therapy is when you see dramatic changes in their life. These can include their academic performance, attitude, and even outlook on life.
For instance, you have a teenager who used to be socially outgoing, had a close group of friends, and did well in school. They had activities they enjoyed, like participating in sports or clubs.
But now it’s like they have retreated inward. They don’t hang out with the same group of friends anymore, and those after-school activities are no longer appealing.
What happened? The good news is that a teen therapist could help answer this question.
Substance Abuse Has Become an Issue
Another sign that it’s time for teen counseling is if you’re seeing substance abuse issues. Therapy might not be necessary if you learn that your teen dabbled in substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana. This might just need a healthy parent-teen discussion.
This approach is especially helpful if they’re honest with what happened, are confused, and looking for guidance. What is more troubling is when you notice systematic substance abuse issues occurring with your teenager, such as:
- getting in trouble consistently at home or school for substance use
- lying about substance use behavior
- hiding drugs or alcohol
- selling drugs for money
- getting sent to the emergency room for drinking too much or even overdosing
This situation is undoubtedly when teen counseling from a trained therapist who understands teens and substance abuse issues is essential.
When You’re Concerned about Risky Behavior
Besides substance abuse, other risky behaviors could warrant starting teen counseling, including:
- running away frequently
- sexually acting out
- physical violence
- having suicidal thoughts
These are blatant signs your teen needs professional support. If you’re particularly concerned that your teen is at risk for suicide, ask for help now. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.
Understand Teen Anxiety and Stress
A less visible sign that teen therapy is needed is when they’re stressed and feeling anxious.
Teens can be very good at hiding certain emotions and feelings, including anxiety. This stealthy approach is a problem. Mainly because your teen’s anxiety could manifest itself in other ways later on down the road if left unaddressed.
It’s helpful to consider whether your teenager might be feeling stressed and anxious. Is there a lot of pressure from peers or you to perform well at school? Has there been recent “drama” with friends that’s causing a rift in their relationships?
How to Know It’s Time for Teen Counseling: Ask Them!
The best way to know if your teenager could use therapeutic support is to talk with them. You don’t want to interrogate them, but express your genuine interest and concern for their well-being.
And then, listen to your teen. They might actually surprise you by talking!
Be supportive and willing to hear them out. Suggest that teen therapy could be helpful and to give it a try. But above all else, communicate to them that you love them and care about them very much.
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Knowing if your teen needs help from a therapist requires having a watchful eye. You need to pick up on signs that even your teenager doesn’t realize they’re giving. And the best way to know is having a frank and open discussion.
And if you’re still struggling to parent your teenager and you’re concerned about their behavior, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a teen counselor trained to help adolescents and teens. Blue Boat Counseling offers online therapy which teens actually thrive with, so this may be a great option for your family.