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Spotting Odd Behavior in Your Teen

The teenage years are often the most complicated for both the parents and the teen themselves. There are the physical and hormonal changes, new social experiences and emotions as well as academic challenges to conquer. The development of the internet and widespread popularity of social media mean that the teenager of today is also dealing with 24/7 judgment from their peers and is always comparing themselves to others, both physically and in terms of their achievements in life. With so much going on for them, it’s difficult to see how any teenager could come out the other end without some struggles along the way, but when does teenage behavior stop being ‘normal’?

Are They Experimenting with Alcohol, Or Abusing It?
Drinking alcohol in the US is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, but it’s not uncommon for teenagers to at least try alcohol at some point. It could be under your supervision at home or a family celebration, or it may be experimenting with friends socially. Either way, alcohol does not always mean there is a problem.
However, if your teenager is binge-drinking or drinking regularly, it is possible that they may have developed an alcohol abuse disorder or addiction. If you think this may be the case, you will need to broach the subject with them sensitively and help them to find professional care before they expose themselves to the dangers of teen drinking.
Are They a Bit Moody, Or Struggling with a Mental Health Issue?
You may notice that your teenager is easily angered or prone to tears and generally overreacts to situations. This is usually due to a combination of hormonal changes, changing brain structure and their natural desire to be more independent from you. However, there are circumstances when low moods or erratic mood swings are indicative of a more serious issue.
If their mood is continually low, they express feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, are no longer interested in activities they used to enjoy, are becoming increasingly isolated, become aggressive towards you and others, they may be struggling with depression and/or anxiety. Specialist centers such as Ignite Teen Treatment provide effective mental health treatment programs for teenagers suffering from depression.
Are They Just Testing the Boundaries, Or Putting Themselves at Risk?
In addition to drinking alcohol, some teens may experiment with other risky behaviors such as sex or extreme sports. To a certain extent, this is normal to want to try new things in life and become more ‘adult,’ but there is a point when these activities are not acceptable. For example, practicing unprotected sex, driving dangerously or committing crimes all have the potential to impact them for the rest of their lives.
To establish their independence, they probably won’t share every detail of their lives with you anymore, but if you believe they are being deliberately deceptive, this could be a warning sign.
Are They Just Going Through a Bad Patch at School, Or Struggling with Something More Serious?
Even the brightest teenagers will have ups and downs in their school career, especially when socializing, sports and teenage romances enter the picture. A slight drop in grades is not necessarily a danger sign, but if your teenager’s achievement drops off the edge of a cliff, you should investigate what’s going on. It could be a learning disability, a social problem such as bullying, mental health issues or even a substance abuse disorder.
Are They Just Enjoying Social Media with Friends, Or Something More Sinister?

It’s not unusual for teenagers to become preoccupied with technology and the internet and many parents find they need to enforce time limits and restrictions. However, internet addiction is widely recognized as a legitimate mental health condition, so there is a point where their habit may be unhealthy. If you’re concerned, you should research common signs of internet addiction in teenagers. Social media can expose them to cyberbullying, so be vigilant about what your teenager is getting up to in their online world.

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