Kristin's Comfy Couch Family Counseling Kristin Perry, LMFT
Kristin's Comfy Couch Family CounselingKristin Perry, LMFT
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Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble It can be terrifying when you see a sudden change in your teen and don't know what to make of it. Sometimes, you may wonder: "What's normal?" "Am I making too much of this?" "Does she just want attention?" "Am I really the only parent who has a problem with this?" "Am I too hard on him?"The fact that you're asking these questions shows excellent parenting radar and a real concern for your child. While this list is not exhaustive, it's a solid start. It captures many of the problems I see come up in teen therapy. If any of the things listed below are happening with your kid, you're not making too much of it. It isn't about attention. You're right to be worried. Your child needs help, right away!Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble:1. Sudden negative change in peer group, friends they are not willing to introduce2. Social Isolation3. Bullying: either being the perpetrator or the victim of abuse is a concern and requires help.4. Self-harm: cutting, picking, burning, self-starvation, or high risk sexual behavior. If you notice a sudden dramatic weight loss, see any unexplained marks or scars, or if your child suddenly starts wearing long sleeves or more concealing clothing, look more closely. Ask questions. Get help!5. Any break-up with a best friend or first love that is being taken particularly hard: excessive crying, expressing feelings of hopelessness, or obsessive thinking, talking, or social media mentions about the loss are significant signs there's a problem.6. Substance abuse7. Falling or failing grades8. Dramatic change in appearance or lack of interest in basic grooming, extreme irritability or aggression, crying, expressing feelings of numbness and disconnection, change in appetite, or sleep pattern are all signs of DEPRESSION, and should be taken seriously.9. Lying or secretive behavior10. Expressing ANY thoughts of suicide: verbally, by gesture, or in writing The need for help is URGENT: if your teenager has a specific plan for how to commit suicide, access to the means of self-harm they describe, or an expression of intent to actually do it.If your kid starts giving away emotionally significant items, seem to be trying to tie up loose ends, or say "goodbye" to anyone, these are also RED FLAGS. If you see this behavior. or you have any doubts, get help immediately. Go to your nearest emergency room, call 911, or call the police Psychological Emergency Response Team (PERT). It's okay to err on the side of caution. In fact, it's a really good idea to call, if you have any doubt at all.Teenagers can get in over their heads really fast. It's alarming how quickly they can get into real trouble. They are more impulsive, while being less able to think long-range and problem solve, than adults. Teens can suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, addiction and serious anger management problems, just like adults. When this happens, teens really need help. If you're a parent and this is happening with your child, you probably need some help, too. These are complicated scary problems. It's important to have a person with professional psychological training assist you. There's a lot at stake. Things can get better, with the right guidance.Please, act quickly, if you notice any of the Top Ten Signs Your Teen is in Trouble. If you aren't sure, or have any questions, you can call me: Kristin Perry, MFT at: 760-978-6071. If you can't reach me and think it might be serious, please, call 911.A little rebellion is normal teenage stuff. A little moodiness is normal teen emotion. Being kinda bratty is normal teenager behavior. Raising a teen is tricky. An adolescent's process of becoming independent can be quite hard on everyone concerned. They're a little bit prickly, sometimes. Counseling can help with these normal developmental issues, too. Teen therapy can improve family relationships, communication and coping skills. Counseling can help get things back on the right track. It can also save your kid's life.Whatever your particular situation, I wish you much luck, love and peace as you care for your family.Take care!Kristin Perry, MFTKristin's Comfy Couch Family Counseling760-978-6071
Gail Post, Ph.D.
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We know that children, teens, and young adults face conflicting messages about risks during the Pandemic. A healthy drive for connection is stymied by pressure to remain safe — socially distanced, masked, and armed for battle against COVID-19. We feel for our children, grieve over their disappointments, and frantically search for solutions, envisioning grave consequences to their psyches if they are denied access to their friends.

We hear conflicting advice in the media — everything from rates of COVID-19 spread among children to dire predictions of psychological fallout resulting from social isolation. Without clear guidance or support on a national level, families are left to interpret whatever information is available and make their own decisions. Some choose a strict level of caution regarding their child’s activities. Others develop creative solutions such as “pods” where families convene based on mutual trust regarding safety precautions. Still others ignore science altogether, claiming the Pandemic is a hoax.

Are you a "cool mom?"

While most families muddle through each long day, week, and month, they recalibrate their decisions on the basis of family risk factors, local case numbers, and what needs or demands are most pressing. These daily choices may be complicated by the “cool mom” (or "cool dad, grandparent, guardian, caregiver") dilemma — the pressure to appear invulnerable to worries. We long to be the cool parent who is light on rules, and now, willing to play fast and loose with COVID-19 precautions. Hey, we're not going to succumb to fear. I don't want to be the only parent on the block who keeps my child from parties and soccer games. 

We come from a culture where “being cool,” invulnerable, and even reckless is applauded in film, the media, and most social circles. From an early age, we learn that social approval often hinges upon our willingness to take risks. Those daredevil kids in elementary school were revered. Risk-taking, rebellious teens were admired, and at the very least, seemed to get more dates and boast legendary party adventures. Those who displayed more caution or conscientiousness were labeled as boring/fearful/no fun, even when their behavior was a sign of emerging maturity. 

As parents, we now face similar pressures. Unfortunately, social interactions in close quarters, without masks, are a badge of "coolness." It seems like the "cool parents" are more permissive, letting their kids ignore COVID-19 safety precautions. Often, these are the same parents who allow their kids to “free-range” with little supervision, rarely enforce a bedtime, or provide alcohol at their teen’s parties. We might even envy their cavalier attitude, their seemingly casual disregard for rules and limitations. It feels lousy to be a stick-in-mud, a limit-setter, the conscientious parent willing to weather our child’s wrath over rules. We also want our kids to fit in - especially our gifted kids who often already struggle with peer relations. Our own childhood experiences — of exclusion, teasing, or choices related to risk-taking — also may weigh heavily, imploring us to loosen any restraints, to throw caution to the wind. 

But now, in 2020, amidst so much struggle and disappointment, it is still our job to be the adult in the room. We can admit that, yes, this is a difficult time. We can acknowledge their frustration and distress.  But we still need to safeguard our children's, family's and the community's well-being, model mature and responsible behavior, and remind our children that they will get through this. We also need to protect them from our own anxiety and fears. It's no fun being the uncool adult - but right now, it's part of the job. 

Additional articles about weathering this difficult time:

Five essential guidelines for helping your child during this global crisis

Cultivating tolerance and empathy in our children and students

A lesson learned from the Pandemic

On Independence Day 2020: Tips for families of gifted children

Brave, new, connected, compassionate world

This blog is part of Hoagie's Gifted Hop on "2020: The year of..." To see more blogs, click on this link.

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