It is easy to accept that there are physical circumstances which affect the mood, behaviour and temperament of teenagers. This, after all, has been the norm for generations. Parents may even remember when we were teenagers and how our expectations, priorities and interpretations of the world shifted sharply in ways that sometimes made us difficult to be around.
When to ask questions?
As our understanding of mental health issues continues to evolve (I wrote about this here), there is an expectation that parents and peers need to be aware of the challenges and changes of puberty while also being able to discern when teenage behaviour moves beyond the normal to the point of requiring help. Being able to do this requires a level of attentiveness both to the behaviours of the teen in question and their peers.
If, for example, a particular peer group has a habit of staying up until the wee hours of the night texting or engaging with one another on social media, this may lead to sleep deprivation which would naturally lead to fatigue and extended sleep ins on the weekend. If, however, that same teen who sleeps until Saturday afternoons has become distant and unengaged with peers, is not participating in social events with friends or family and seems tired all the time, it may be time to explore further if there is a physical or psychological reason for this behaviour.
What can parents do?
On the one hand, it is important to avoid jumping to conclusions. Instead, consider the nature, intensity, duration and severity of the problem.
On the other hand, pride and denial can get in the way of accepting the possibility that our teenagers have a problem. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away. We need to be open the possibility that our teenagers need help to deal with the root causes of their behaviour.
Begin with conversation
If you are concerned, talk to your teenager. Let them know what you see and why you are worried. Try to be specific, using phrases such as “I’ve noticed you are not spending much time with your friends lately” or “I’ve noticed you have been sleeping a lot lately”. Be sure to stay calm, say what you mean and be prepared to listen attentively and respectfully to their response. It is important that participants in this conversation have a clear sense that we are in this together. For more tips, check out this link.
When in doubt, talking with other parents can provide some insights and options. We are not alone. Just as teenagers draw from peer groups as they engage with the world, parents can also find support and understanding with other parents. Thrive: A living manual for families creates space for all types of peer groups. All are welcome to join the conversation.
Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today. Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/