The Challenges of Being a Modern Teen
Being a teenager has never been easy, it seems. Dealing with hormonal changes, schoolwork, expectations of parents, time management, peer pressure and a dozen other daily issues can make life difficult for even the most well-adjusted kid. Even those raised in a loving, supportive environment can develop emotional problems or display rebellious behavior at times. And unfortunately, many parents simply don’t have enough time to always be there when a child needs guidance and support, especially in single-parent households in which the parent must work long hours just to make ends meet.
Today’s teens have even more to deal with than past generations. Children growing up in our fast-paced often have as busy a schedule as their parents and are also exposed to a barrage of information - much of it sending the wrong messages. Violent themes and sexual imagery are seemingly everywhere - from the games teens play online to the music videos they watch on a daily basis. It’s a wonder that the majority of today’s youth emerge as well-adjusted adults, considering the questionable and often downright unhealthy content they are constantly barraged with. Not to mention the real-life dangers they face, such as drugs and alcohol, sexual predators, bullies and a host of other potential threats to their well-being
And it’s normal, of course, for a teen to go through a rebellious phase - that’s part of the bargain, and even healthy kids are prone to it. But many of our children display signs of deeper problems. It’s one thing to have a sullen attitude at times, fall slightly behind in schoolwork or make mistakes in judgment that lead to some sort of trouble. Sometimes these types of problems are just part of growing up - no teenager (or adult, for that matter) is perfect.
However, many of today’s kids fall into a category that is commonly referred to as “troubled teens”. The general definition of a troubled teen is one who exhibits emotional and/or behavioral problems that may hinder their becoming a healthy adult.
Recognizing Troubled Teens
There is no one set of symptoms that can easily or definitively identify a troubled teen. There are, however, a list of general warning signs that can help parents recognize the possibility that their child is developing serious problems. If your teenager displays more than a few of these behavior patterns, he or she may need professional counseling and/or therapy:
Falling behind in grades or performance at school
Frequent incidences of bad temper or extreme sadness
Severe mood swings
Lack of interest in normal activities
Sleeping too much
Avoiding former friends and/or interaction with family members
Experimenting with drugs or alcohol
Excessive rebellious behavior
Dishonest or disobedient behavior
Threatening or violent behavior
Refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions
This list is not inclusive of all the signs of a troubled teen - there are many ways emotional or behavioral problems may be manifested - but can serve as a general guide to parents who may be noticing similar patterns in their own children.
It’s also important to note that there are two basic types of troubled teens. One type is withdrawn and introverted - he or she may avoid interaction with adults and/or peers, preferring to spend most of their time alone. Some teens who fall into this category are not necessarily unhealthy, while others may be in danger. If they are teased by other children for not “fitting in”, they may eventually seek revenge or begin having suicidal thoughts and tendencies
The other type is typically extroverted and vocal. Often, this type of troubled will be overtly rebellious, challenging parents or authority figures on a regular basis. He or she may act out in a violent manner, either verbally threatening or physically attacking others.
What Causes a Teen to Become “Troubled”?
There are many factors that can lead to emotional or behavioral problems among teenagers. One of the main causes is depression. Even young people can be subject to deep bouts of depression, which can eventually become paralyzing and lead to self-destructive behavior. Other factors may include lack of supervision and discipline, incidences of abuse in childhood or problems at home (especially animosity between parents, e.g. a messy divorce).
Recent studies have even suggested that one factor may be the way a child’s brain develops - it has been noted by some researchers that the brain does not completely develop, in terms of certain types of “psycho-social” faculties, until adulthood. In other words, teens may be effectively “hard-wired” to engage in risky and rebellious behavior until these parts of the brain are fully developed (around the age of 25).
It should also be noted that many children who fall into the troubled teen category, come from good homes where the parents have done everything humanly possible to make their children feel loved and cared for. A troubled teen is not always the result of a negative environment.
Dealing With a Troubled Teen
Often parents feel at a loss when it comes to dealing with an “out of control” teen. If behavioral and emotional problems become severe, professional help is definitely recommended. Sometimes, counseling and therapy can work wonders and sometimes certain types of treatment with drugs can be of value. But parents can also find ways to address the problems before they become severe. In many cases, teens actually need (and even desire) limits to be set and enforced. It’s also important to speak to the child as an adult, directly confronting the issues and discussing them in rational terms.
Teens need to be treated and respected as adults, but they also need guidance and discipline. Give them the opportunity to talk things over with you and take the time to explain the consequences of their behavior and the reasons why they are expected to behave in a certain manner.
If the problems continue, by all means seek counseling. If left untreated or unaddressed, they child may have real problems becoming a healthy adult. Don’t just give up and wait for their 18th birthday so that you can kick them out of the house. Even the most rebellious teens deserve a chance to turn their lives around, and they need your help and support in doing so.
Monitoring Your Teen’s Behavior
In these times, it can be difficult enough just to make sure your child has a roof over his or her head, clothes to wear and enough to eat. Many parents - especially single working parents - find themselves working long hours to provide for their families, and too often, there simply isn’t enough time left over to properly monitor a child’s daily activities.
Many of us must leave the responsibility of watching over a child (at least partly) to teachers, clergy, older siblings or other family members, while we struggle to earn a living for the family. And in some cases, there really aren’t enough safety nets to ensure that a teenager is staying out of trouble and spending enough time focusing on the activities that will help them mature into well-educated and well-balanced adults.
If most of your time is spent working and taking care of the basic needs of your family, you may not have adequate time, for instance, to make sure your teenager is finishing his or her homework instead of chatting or playing games online. Most teens now own smartphones or tablets and it’s very easy for them to become distracted by their friends on social networks or trying to get to the next level on some addictive online multiplayer game.
A Partial Solution
Although it’s no substitute for good parenting, using a cell phone tracker app to monitor your child’s online activity can be of great help to busy parents. Also commonly known as spyware, or spy phone apps, these downloadable software packages can be very effective in keeping an eye on how much time your teen spends online, as well as who they are talking to, what they are talking about, what they are viewing and sharing and even tracking their whereabouts in real time.
These apps are relatively inexpensive and easy to download and install on your child’s smartphone or tablet. Because they are undetectable, it’s up to the parent whether or not the child is made aware that his or her phone or tablet is being monitored.
There are a number of spyware packages available on the market and each has a different set of features and compatibility specs. Most of these packages offer basic features including phone call, email, text, SMS and chat monitoring capabilities, and most also have a GPS tracking feature that lets you know where your child is and where he or she has been.
Even if you’re not tech-savvy, these apps are basically very easy to install and use, and will guide you through the installation process and show you how to utilize them to monitor your teen’s online activity. Once you’ve installed the app, you’ll be able to log in to a private, secured account where all the collected data can be easily viewed. As mentioned above, it’s not a substitute for parenting, but it’s a very good way to gain a window into your child’s daily activities and social life, so that you can spot potential problems before they become serious ones.