Youth Zone Corner: Risky teen behavior often a cry for help | PostIndependent.com

Youth Zone Corner: Risky teen behavior often a cry for help

Jennifer Keener

Jennifer Keener

Often I hear, either among my friends or at work as a youth and family specialist, “Oh, that’s a typical teenager for you.” This gets me thinking … how many behaviors are normal and do parents know the difference between normal and high risk behaviors?

Having two teenagers myself, I am in the midst of this reality and sometimes forget that they are just being teenagers. There is a saying that if your teenager doesn’t tell you they hate you at least once in your life, you are doing something wrong. This is a teenage behavior that is normal. It is their job to push boundaries, with their primary goal being to gain independence.

It is important during this time to have clear boundaries and expectations for your teenager. Even though you may face resistance, teenagers still need and want boundaries. Boundaries create a safety net for them. When teenagers begin ignoring or pushing the boundaries, it can be a red flag that requires special attention.

Teenagers are often moody due to hormonal and physical changes, which can make them short-tempered and easy to anger. It is normal for teenagers to have an attitude, especially when they don’t get their way. This is also a period when they begin spending more time with friends, and parents become embarrassing and not as fun to be around.

Drama is another thing that comes along with raising teenagers. It has become an almost nightly ritual at my house to come home from work and spend 30 minutes with my daughter hearing about the day’s big news. Exhausting as it can be on certain nights, it’s important to listen and be present. What may seem insignificant to us can be a huge deal for them, for often they are having these experiences for the first time.

Rebellion is a behavior that I am sure we all can relate to. Remember when we were teenagers? If our parents said “no,” we immediately went out of our way to do the exact opposite. It is normal for teenagers to push the limits. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles. Allow your teens to safety navigate their independence and express themselves in healthy ways.

Some teenage behaviors could be an indication for more serious problems. Stealing, being physically abusive to others or destructive in your home, ignoring curfews, running away, daily substance use, being verbally abusive or threatening, getting arrested, declining grades and attendance at school, and being openly defiant on a regular basis are not normal behaviors.

At YouthZone, when we see these behaviors in teenagers it is usually a cry for help. The young person may have experienced a traumatic event and doesn’t have the coping skills needed to overcome the experience. If you are experiencing any of these high-risk behaviors with your teenager, call YouthZone at 970-945-9300. We can complete an assessment and come up with an individualized plan to support you and your teenager.

It is our job as parents to teach and role model to our kids to become the most awesome, amazing, resilient, responsible kids we know they are.

Jennifer Keener is a youth and family specialist.


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