What are the Signs that Something is Wrong with My Teen?
When children start spinning out of control they usually exhibit many different signs that parents need to watch out for. Unfortunately, many parents often write off these signs as normal adolescent behavior, and as a result, they don’t realize that their child is into drugs or other at-risk behavior until it is too late. So how can you as a parent know for sure whether or not your child is in danger? Simple … by understanding that every child is in danger of this. The parent who says “not my kid” is the same parent who will miss all the signs that their child has started experimenting with drugs, promiscuity, illegal activities, or other troubled behavior. Often they will stay in this state of denial till their son or daughter is in real trouble. So what should you as parents be looking for?
1. Dramatic changes in the style of clothes, hair, music — an excessive need to “fit in” with their peers (many of which are newfound friends)
These outward signs should be obvious to a parent. Has your child started listening to radically different music, dressing differently, asking to get tattoos or piercings, or coloring her hair some weird color just to fit in? Is she dressing differently or provocatively like her newfound friends at school? All of these are outward signs that your child is succumbing to negative peer pressure.
2. Tardiness and/or truancies
You need to stay in touch with your child’s school. Never assume that his/her school will be in touch with you if there is a problem. If your child is getting into drugs or alcohol, she will start ditching class from time to time. Kids who do this tend to take off during the middle of school and get stoned somewhere near the campus. Don’t assume that their school will let you know about this kind of behavior. And you need to realize, kids are great at covering up this kind of behavior. Every girl knows how to forge their parent’s signature — no joke. Call your girl’s school from time to time and ask about your child’s attendance record. You need to take the initiative here!
3. Isolating from family
Does your girl suddenly act distant? Does she constantly want to be with her friends, away from home? Does she want to have sleepovers with friends you do not know, or you don’t know their parents? When she has gone missing for a time and you ask her what she has been up to, does she give some vague reply, get very defensive, or not reply at all? Does she want to eat in her room or at her friends’ houses all the time instead of with the family? Children are smart – they know that the easiest lie to tell is the one they can avoid having to tell. If your girl doesn’t tell you what she has been up to, there’s a good chance she is hiding something.
4. Changes in attitude and personality
Does it seem like your child is suddenly a completely different person with a new personality that you don’t like one bit? Has she suddenly developed a tough-girl attitude and a disrespectful tone? If she experimenting with at-risk behavior, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing these kinds of attitude changes. Often parents just see this as normal teenage behavior and write it off. Don’t make this mistake . . . otherwise, you might overlook one of the most obvious signs. Other signs are a loss of interest in something she once loved to do or the shunning of good girls she once hung out with. And also, the loss of interest in getting good grades in school.
5. Changes in sleep patterns
Sleep changes should be fairly obvious. Does she stay up late (or even all night) frequently, refusing to get up in the morning at a decent time? Is it possible she is sneaking out at night? Does your child sleep way too much or way too little? If she isn’t sleeping much, there’s a good chance she is using some form of a stimulant.
6. Eating way too much or way too little
Here’s another obvious sign of drug experimentation that is often overlooked as normal teenage behavior. Does your child come home in the afternoon after hanging out with friends and devour everything in the refrigerator? If she is smoking pot with her friends, it wouldn’t be unusual for her to binge on more food than normal. Some pot smokers become bulimic, eating a lot and then going to the bathroom to purge what they just ate. Or, does she not eat at all and is losing a lot of weight? That can be a sign of other types of drug use, like methamphetamines, cocaine, or even prescription drugs.
7. Paranoia – everyone is out to get me
Does your daughter treat everybody as if they were the enemy? Does she tend to express the idea that everybody is out to get them? Is she fearful to go to school, to athletic practice, or some other activity? Does she seem overly paranoid, anxious, and fearful? This is not normal teenage behavior; you need to understand that. It could be that she is being bullied or sexually abused, or that a substance she is taking is making her that way. In any event, this warning sign should cause you to get help for her.
8. Experimenting with drugs or alcohol
Do your daughter’s eyes look funny? Are the pupils really large or really small? Does your child wear sunglasses even at night and try and say they’re just trying to look cool? Does she suddenly show an interest in burning incense in her room? A person’s eyes show the effects of the drugs they are using. If you think your child is experimenting with drugs, watch her eyes. Are they red all the time? Glazed? If so, there’s a really good chance your child is using drugs or alcohol.
9. Sudden bursts of anger
Has your child recently developed a violent side? Is she prone to sudden, uncontrollable fits of anger? This doesn’t have to mean physically violent (though that is often the case) but can also be a teen who is always yelling or threatening people. Any of these things should be a warning sign to you that your child could be experimenting with alcohol or drugs, or that she is being abused or bullied.
If your child is experimenting with drugs, she will be telling lots of lies to cover this up. Teens tend to be very good at covering things up. If you start wondering whether or not your child is telling you the truth, there is a good chance that your instincts are right. Be persistent and learn what it is that they are trying to cover up.
11. Dramatic mood swings
Does your child seem overly happy and giddy one day, then terribly depressed the next day? Do your child’s emotions go up and down constantly? This is often confused with ‘normal’ teenage behavior, but it can also be an obvious sign of emotional or substance abuse issues. Don’t simply write it off.
12. Excessive money spending or money disappearing
If your child keeps coming to you needing money, or if money keeps coming up missing from your purse or your wallet, you need to have a serious talk with her. Especially if she always seems to need 20 dollars or 50 dollars — round amounts — since that is often the price of drugs.
13. Hanging out with a bad crowd (a different crowd than they used to)
Your child might try and tell you that her new friends are cool kids (and her old friends are not). But you need to take a close look at the kids she has started hanging out with. Chances are that the way these friends normally behave is the way your child also behaves when you’re not watching. Are some of your girl’s new friends using drugs or alcohol, or experimenting with sexual activities? If so, your girl is too. Your child’s friends are like a mirror for your daughter — she looks at herself in that mirror and tries to conform to what she sees there. One of the best ways to get a good idea of what your child is like is to look at her new friends.
14. Excessive use of foul or obscene language
Has your child suddenly developed a filthy mouth? This might indicate that she is giving in to peer pressure from their friends and should be a warning sign to you. If your child is trying to fit in with their friends by cussing, sooner or later your child will probably look for other more destructive ways to gain acceptance in her peer group.