Getting through the teen years can be close to traumatic for some parents. Some of the issues can be serious while others can be almost comical, but it is rare to slip through those years with no problems. Since we are all busy raising our families, sometimes we can miss the signs or calls for help. So, how can you spot red flags in teens?
What Are Red Flags?
The dictionary tells us that red flags are “warnings of danger.” This idiom originated in the 18th century and it meant a literal red flag was flying out to warn sailors or others to draw attention to an upcoming problem.
Using it in relation to teens is not uncommon, and it signifies some new behavior that parents should not ignore. Yes, kids can go through phases as they grow like changing their hair color and style, or wearing the latest fads in clothing. Those changes are more typical teenage behaviors, whereas other changes are significant and many times a cry for help. Don’t ignore them.
Atypical Clothing For The Season
If it’s 88 degrees and your son or daughter is wearing long sleeve clothes every day, your antenna should go up. A sad commentary on today, but many young kids are “cutting” or hurting themselves on their arms and wrists. In some cases, they wear long sleeves to hide the evidence from their parents.
Whether this behavior is due to anxiety, depression, bullying, or problems at home, it should be addressed as quickly as possible. Rather than confront, try asking if there is anything they want to talk about. If after several attempts, you cannot coax them to tell you, ask Kids First Pediatrics of Raeford and Fayetteville for advice. This is a cry for attention and help, and a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Changes In Sleep
It’s true that teens love to stay up late chatting with friends or listening to music and then sleep late into the morning hours. If something alters this pattern, like sleeping during the day, or not sleeping at all, that should be a red flag that something is going on.
Sudden Changes In Peer Friends
Most kids stick with longtime friends that they trust. If your teen suddenly starts hanging out with new friends, or being secretive about who they are socialized with, this could be a sign of trouble. If this is accompanied by other negative signs like falling grades or missing curfews, these new friends could be having a problematic influence on them.
Of course the young are primarily influenced by their peers, so watch out for the possibility of harmful drugs.
Changes in Personality
Teens can be moody, distant and sometimes defiant as they struggle with their hormones and desire for independence. Occasional outbursts may be normal teenage behavior, but if it becomes more frequent and escalates, this could be time to intervene. Ask advice from Kids First Pediatrics of Raeford and Fayetteville or for a referral to a specialist.
At the same time, a teen who has always been outgoing and affectionate who suddenly stops communicating, spends a lot of time alone, or opts out of family gatherings or activities they used to enjoy, could be sending out red flags.
Dropping grades, not caring about their grades, and/or more anxiety about grades are all signs of some type of internal anxiety.
With the uptick in teen suicides over the last decade, it is important to talk with your teens early and often. Give them the opportunity to be open without judgment and, of course, listen to them. Make it clear that you love them and only want to help.
If your teen is showing behavioral red flags, see Kids First Pediatrics of Raeford and Fayetteville for helpful ideas and possible alternative measures.