Whoever said the “terrible twos” were the worst spoke too soon! Gone are the sleepless yet simple days of diapers and nap times. Or maybe the sleepless nights never really go away - you just traded pacing hallways to soothe a baby for pacing hallways to soothe your own nerves. There is no guidebook for raising teenagers (though we sure wish there were), but we can offer some insights into the teenage mind and how you can help them (and yourself) navigate these tumultuous years.
The human brain is at a crucial developmental stage in adolescence. While your teen’s brain has finished growing in size, it does not fully mature until their mid- to late 20’s. The prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions to mature. Unfortunately, that’s the area responsible for planning and impulse control. That’s right - your teenager is not yet fully capable of considering all the consequences before engaging in risky behavior.
Mix this with sudden, sharp rises in hormones, and you’ve got a perfect storm for rapidly changing behaviors and poor decision making. Bear this in mind the next time you’re dealing with a teen who has suddenly decided to hate you for no apparent reason, made a decision to miss curfew, or snuck out of the house.
As infuriated as you may feel in the situations listed above, keeping your cool in challenging moments is a great way to handle most situations. These are wonderful, lead-by-example moments that will help your teen calm down and think more rationally. Here are a few more ways you can help your teen:
As mentioned above, teens have a lot to deal with and their coping mechanisms aren’t always the best. The rapid and constant changes in their brains, along with the physical, emotional, and social challenges of navigating this period in life, make teens more susceptible to mental health problems than adults.
Many mental disorders - such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders - emerge in the teenage years. Stay aware of behavioral changes that could be signs of a mental health crisis. These changes could be sudden or subtle, even going easily unnoticed for some. Changes to look out for include:
This isn’t a comprehensive list, and some teens may exhibit very few of these signs but still be in need of help. It may also be difficult to discern between depression and normal teenage mood swings. This is what makes open and frequent communication so beneficial - if you’re regularly checking in with your teen and they know they can come to you with problems, you’re much more likely to realize when they need help.
If your teenager is struggling with their mental health, finding a counselor for them can make all the difference. Early intervention by behavioral and mental health specialists is associated with positive outcomes. A professional therapist who is experienced in working with adolescents will know how to make your teen feel comfortable and able to express themselves. Your child will be able to confide in a non-judgemental party and will learn coping methods and strategies to deal with their stress, anxiety, or depression. A therapist can also be a useful ally to help discern if your child needs medication or is at risk of hurting themselves.
If you live in California or Nevada, reach out to Medens Health to connect with an experienced adolescent therapist. We are committed to supporting your teenager and equipping them to navigate this tumultuous time in their life. Our therapists work to cultivate healthy decision-making skills, help them consider the needs and feelings of others, and teach them how to express themselves in a healthy way. If you live elsewhere, you can search Psychology Today for a child or adolescent therapist in your area.
If you or someone you know has a teen who is struggling or feeling overwhelmed, our team of mental health experts at Medens Health are here to help. Get started today in the California or Nevada area, with affordable counseling for teenagers.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.