When to seek professional help for your teen

By Deena Bodine
Youth First Inc.

Parenting is no easy task. The teen years are notorious for challenging parents. While these years are a time of growth and a move toward independence for teens, parents may struggle to find a balance between encouraging independence and hovering too much.

Distinguishing normal teenage behavior from serious problems can be difficult. While it is important for teens to grow their problem-solving capabilities, parents also need to be available to help when their child is feeling overwhelmed. Consider how your teen is fairing in school and their relationships for helpful clues.

Also, is your teen openly communicating with you about their daily life? If you are concerned about any of these areas, follow up with their school’s Youth First social worker or counselor about how to best help them.

While it can be difficult to admit that your teen needs more help than you can offer, there are some issues that require professional counseling and intervention. Teens may need to meet with a professional for a variety of behavioral or emotional concerns, mental health issues, stress, relationship difficulties, substance use, or traumatic experiences.

It is important to recognize some warning signs so that you can seek help for your teen in a timely manner. Signs of depression, running away, participation in illegal activities, acting out sexually, self-harm or abusing substances are all clues that immediate intervention is needed.

Other warning signs that there may be cause for concern include failing classes, changes in friends or activities, changes in eating habits, inappropriate anger or other significant changes in mood. These behaviors require consideration that your teen may be struggling with more than they can handle.

After determining that your child needs professional help, seek more information from the school’s Youth First social worker, counselor or your child’s pediatrician. They can assist in a variety of ways that may include completing an assessment, providing additional support, and offering information about referrals and other resources.

While it is not easy to ask for help, it is important to help your child get the assistance they need to be healthy. You may feel a wide range of emotions from guilt to worry to regret. These feelings are all normal, but don’t allow them to prevent you from helping your teen get professional counseling. Not only are you securing help for your teen during a difficult time, you are teaching them an important life lesson about asking for help when needed.

Deena Bodine, LCSW, is the Youth First social worker at Memorial High School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 66 master's-level social workers to 93 schools in 12 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after-school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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