While adolescence may just be “a phase” of your child’s lifespan, their behaviors during this period influence their coping mechanisms, interests, and relationships throughout their lifetime. In comparison to adulthood, behavior issues during adolescence result in fewer direct consequences. However, when emotional issues underlying behavioral issues are left untreated, consequences tend to compound in adulthood. As a parent, you may worry that early intervention for your teen’s behavior issues would be premature, but reaching out for help can give them the skills they need to succeed.
Noticing Red Flags
When your child is struggling with behavior issues, it may feel like you are walking on a tightrope, trying to get to the other side without causing more problems. Many parents are concerned that they are being overprotective by worrying about their teen’s behavior issues and believe that they’ll age out of experimenting with substances, sneaking out, and breaking house rules. They notice that discipline hasn’t been an effective way of changing their teen’s behavior as it is often isolating and affects their self-esteem. But they worry that there is nothing they can do until their child gets suspended, arrested, or faces a life-and-death scenario. Early intervention for behavioral issues takes a relationship-based approach to helping teens before their behavior escalates to this point.
Communication is Key
Start by having an honest, open conversation with your child about the struggles they are facing. Some common “teen issues” to ask about include:
- Substance use
- Extreme dieting or excessive exercising
- Cheating on schoolwork
Remember to ask open-ended questions that won’t result in a “yes,” “no,” or shrug and walk away. Talk to them about the consequences of high-risk behaviors and teach them ways to change these behaviors, but how to avoid them in the first place.
Avoiding Risky Situations
If you know there is going to be alcohol at a party your child wants to go to or you know your daughter’s boyfriend is home alone, just say no. Even if it means your teen will be outraged, it will only be temporary. Offer other options your child might enjoy, such as inviting their friends to have a sleepover or going to watch a movie that just came out.
Choosing the Right Friends
Although it is natural to blame your teen’s friends for their behavior issues, it’s not your role to determine the terms of their friendship. While the other kid may be someone your child engages in risky behaviors with, they are usually not the only mastermind. Friends influence each others’ behaviors: both risky and productive. Banning a child from hanging out with a certain person typically just fuels their desire to be friends. Instead of sharing your concern right away, ask your teen about the friendship. What do they like about that person? What interests do they have in common?
Relationships in adolescence tend to revolve around shared activities, while young adults begin to prioritize emotional support and building a strong support network.
Many teens with behavior issues believe that taking risks is part of their personality. It helps them fit in with the “in crowd” and it helps them stand out as “interesting.” Many teens worry about who they are or who they would be perceived as without their unhealthy coping mechanisms as a crutch.
While many parents focus on the behaviors as problems, the bigger issue is their child’s relationship to problem behaviors and the purpose they serve in their lives. By understanding what needs your teen is trying to meet, you are better able to encourage alternate adventure activities that help them build confidence, connect with others, and find a sense of purpose.
Early intervention is never “too early.” If your teen is struggling with behavior issues due to underlying depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, reaching out for help can teach them healthier ways of dealing with their emotional issues and impulses. Wilderness therapy teaches teens how to live according to their core values, rather than their unmet needs.
blueFire Wilderness Can Help
blueFire Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based program for teens ages 11-17 who struggle with addictive behaviors. Wilderness therapy removes students from the distraction of peers, devices, and demands of life and allow them to heal in a supportive and nurturing environment. Students will be able to focus on themselves and become more aware of their behavior issues. blueFire gives them the skills and tools they need to combat these behaviors and be on their way to a happy and healthy life.
Contact us at 1-844-413-1999 for more information about teen behavior issues. We can help your family today!