You are a firsthand witness to the challenges your child is facing during this transitional period in life if you are the parent of a teenager in high school. Anything from smoking, to lying, to peer pressure may be tempting your child and threatening to send him down a more difficult path in life. Adolescence is a phase of emotional sensitivity and self-centered behavior that affects the whole family and may require the support of a professional, according to the article, "Common Emotional Problems of Adolescence" from Canadian Family Physician, published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
Movement Toward Independence
The movement towards independence characterizes much of adolescence, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. During this time, your teenager is struggling with developing a separate identity, which can lead to a poor self-esteem, awkward or strange feelings about her body, and general moodiness. She feels the need to impress the opposite sex, and may compare her looks or personality to other girls. She may also be increasingly self-centered, and spend her time focusing on interests influenced by her peer group as an attempt to separate from her parents. While all of these things seem negative, they are indicative of her desire to become independent and self-sufficient.
Struggle With Sexuality
An adolescent often experiences feelings of embarrassment at his upsurge of sexual feelings and therefore may not want to talk about them, according to the article, "Common Emotional Problems of Adolescence." He may also wonder if what he is feeling is abnormal, or experience sensations of guilt when he thinks about his natural sexual drive. Reassurance that what he is feeling is not abnormal, and that he does not have to feel guilty about the natural changes that are occurring in his body, can be a source of relief. A teenage girl may also experience a mixed range of emotions when it comes to her changing body. While she may be excited at the idea of appealing to the opposite sex, she is likely also struggling with her body image and even comparing herself to models, according to WebMD.
Increased Interest in Friendships
An adolescent is so attached to her friends that criticizing them is like criticizing her directly, according to WebMD. An adolescent may act out in ways that seem uncharacteristic of her in order to impress her friends, such as get a lip piercing, wear eccentric clothing or even act rudely. As the mom, you may wonder why she does these things, because they simply weren’t done when you were a teen. You might ask her, “Why do you need to get piercings and tattoos? You’re marking your body – possibly for life. What will people think of you?” The teen might answer, “These days, a lot of people get tattoos, and it doesn’t have the same meaning that it once did. I simply want to express myself that way. It doesn’t mean I’m going I have bad friends, do drugs or flunk school. I just want to decorate my body that way.” This is normal if she is happy and well adjusted, and that she doesn’t skip school or do drugs. If she does begin to engage in self-destructive behavior, you need to have a talk with her.
Depression and Suicide
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens, preteens, and young adults up to age 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with about 4,600 lives lost each year in the U.S., in the 10- to 24-year old age group, and some 157,000 youths in this age group treated for self-inflicted injuries. A suicidal attempt in an adolescent is likely a cry for help, as many teenagers are trying to make sense of family dysfunction all around them. Depression before the attempt may manifest itself in many forms including drug use, delinquent behavior, running away or sexual promiscuity. It may also present itself in the form of hyperactivity in some teenagers, as well as boredom, withdrawal or even pregnancy. Seeking help from a counselor at the early signs of depression may keep it from escalating into a more serious emotional problem that may lead to a suicide attempt.