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  • Writer's pictureOnce Upon A Mommy

Teen Behaviors Never To Ignore…

Updated: Feb 13

By Cris Smith

January 31, 2024

Teens will forever be saying things like "I hate school... School sucks... My friends suck... My teachers suck.. Blah blah blah." There were times when we said those things, as did our parents before us, and now our teens are carrying on the tradition of hating almost everything and everyone (depending on the day, of course). There are times, however, when you probably need to take what they are saying a bit more seriously.

First, you need to determine if they are just venting, or if there is actually a serious problem. Many teenagers complain and vent regularly about school and their social lives. It can be annoying, but it's pretty normal. Much of the time us parents are content when our teens tell us that something is "no big deal". But if you start to notice a trend in what they are saying or doing, then you may consider digging a bit deeper. Maybe it's not a big issue at all, but it doesn't hurt to be sure.

Our teens are faced with more problems than ever these days, and as much as they don't want to admit it, they still need our wisdom and guidance on occasion. We all know teens are constantly up and down with their moods, but if they seem to have fallen into a depressed, sad or angry state and can't seem to come out of it, you need to figure out what's going on. The main concern here is not that they are in a negative state of mind, but if they are continuously in that state of mind.

Be careful with the thought process of "...they're just being a teenager... They'll get over it!" Yes, much of the time your teen will indeed get over things on their own, but recognize if they are having a hard time doing this and maybe need a little intervention. Can't get your teen to open up and tell you what's going on? See my post "Get your teen to open up to you" for some helpful tips.

Teens are old enough to try and figure out many of their own problems, and they should! But much of the time they don't do it in a productive way. Once our kids hit those more advanced teenage years, some parents get the attitude of "Okay, my job is done! They are practically adults! They got it from here..." The reality though, is that now they are facing all new challenges from the ones they faced as younger children. Challenges that may be more life altering such as drugs, drinking, sex, partner abuse and bullying.

They still need some good advice at times, whether they want it or not. If you feel that your teen may be battling a serious issue, you need to start by getting as many details as possible about the problem. Is your teen not talking, but you know there may be something serious going on? Get in touch with the school counselor and/or principal. They can talk with teachers and students to gather intel about what may be going on. If you have other kids that go to the same school as your troubled teen, ask if they have heard anything or know of anything going on. Reach out to the teen's best friend. Does this make you a nosy parent? Yes. But it shouldn't matter if you are worried about the safety and well being of your child. If there is in fact something going on, it is very likely that someone will have noticed something.


  • A DRASTIC CHANGE IN THEIR PERSONALITY. I'm not talking about the teen girl who's always cranky because she's been that way most of her life (yes, I have one of those!) I'm talking about the teen who usually walks on the lighter side of things. She is normally positive, joking around and doesn't seem to mind going to school. But you notice over a period of a couple weeks that she is joking around less and less, seems to be getting depressed and is making up excuses not to go to school. This is a situation where you need to figure out what is going on, and the sooner the better. Another example would be a change from having a calm, collected personality most of the time to becoming more aggressive and angry. These changes can easily be hormonal related and also a normal part of growing into adulthood, but the natural changes are usually more gradual, and they tend to fluctuate, not lasting for any extended period of time (hence the "moodiness" of your average teenager). Connect with your teen and have them talk about what's going on at school with their friends, classes and any boyfriend/girlfriend they may have. See if their grades are being affected at all. If they tell you to "mind your own business", that could be a sign that there is something going on. There is a balance you need to find between giving your teen their space, and knowing when to intervene. Remember, it is still your job to be their parent.

  • BEING SECRETIVE ABOUT WHERE THEY ARE GOING AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Okay, bottom line here: Until your teen turns 18, you absolutely have every right to know where they are going and what they are doing. It IS your business, whether they think it is or not. Once they hit that magical age of 18, they can and will do whatever they want but until then, you need to be all up in their business! I made the mistake of trying to "respect" my teen's privacy when she was 15, and luckily for both of us, that did not result in any life changing circumstances, but it easily could have and almost did. Don't be that parent who says to themselves "my teen would never do something like that", because with the right people in the right place, they will. Experimenting is a part of growing up and teens get plenty of peer pressure to do so. One of the best things you can do is equip your kids with realistic knowledge about what would happen if they chose to do certain things, and that some of those consequences can be life changing. Explain to your teen that if you are going to give them the privilege of hanging out with friends outside of school, then they need to give you the respect of being honest about what they are doing and where they are going. If you find out otherwise, they will lose those privileges and possibly have other repercussions as well. Practice the "give and give" method that I talk about in my post on "Spoiling Your Kid Without the Brat Part". If a teen wants to be given freedom and trust, they need to give honestly and trustworthiness in return.

  • GETTING INTO AN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP. Something I tell my teenage daughters is that if they are going to have a boyfriend, I WILL be meeting this boy and I WILL be up in your guys' business. I'm not saying that I will read every text that goes on between them (honestly, that's the last thing I would want to do!) But if they want to be hanging out outside of school, I will be monitoring their whereabouts and checking in as often as I would like. Obviously this will be tailored to whether you have a younger teen (13-15) or an older teen (16-17). A younger teen's "relationship" will likely just be one that takes place in school, but an older teen will likely want to do things with their partner outside of school. If you are allowing your teen to date outside of school, it IS your business to at least know where they are going and what they are doing. If their partner is dodging the opportunity to meet you and seems more like a ghost than anything, than it may be time to force a meeting. There aren't too many teen boys out there who are dying to meet their girlfriend's parents, but ultimately this is your minor daughter they are hanging out with, so yes, they should at least be open to meeting you guys, even if reluctantly. Pay attention if your teen tries to be secretive about their whereabouts with their partner. Also pay attention if your teen starts to abandon their closest friends, if their grades start to drop, if they are diverting from their goals or quitting sports. Any partner, no matter what your age should be a source of support, encouragement and caring. A partner should make you do things better, not worse. Explain this to your teen and let them know that they can talk to you about their relationship problems. Make them talk to you about their partner. Chances are that you will be able to pick up any red flags about him/her that your child may not be aware of. The best thing you can do is to always keep an open line of communication with your teenagers, and do not allow them to isolate their relationships. Tell them that if they feel that something in their relationship needs to be kept a secret, then there is probably something wrong.

  • THEY START NOTICEABLY LOSING OR GAINING WEIGHT IN A FAIRLY SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. All it takes is for one person to say the wrong thing to your teen, and they can really take it to heart, especially if it's about their body image. Or they see just one too many social media posts of people with the "perfect body". This can become a serious issue if not addressed as quickly as possible. If your teen seems to want to eat hardly anything anymore and they keep chalking it up to "not being hungry", it's time to have a conversation. Another behavior to watch out for is if they want to go to the bathroom immediately following every meal. In a society obsessed with body perfection, we need to be teaching our kids from a young age about having a healthy body image. Help them to focus on their favorite attributes about themselves. Something I've always liked to remind my kids is that you can be a gorgeous human on the outside but a terrible human on the inside. It really is what's INSIDE that counts. That is very old-school advice, but it's solid. Help them to focus more on being a good, caring, hard-working person. Also, as their parent, try not to obsess about your own looks in front of them. Don't stand with them in front of the mirror and grab the fat under your arm, or continuously comment about how uneven your skin tone is. You may assume that this is not affecting them, but guaranteed they are picking up on it. If you suspect your teen may be developing an eating disorder, know that this can be difficult to treat and you may need to consult with outside help. Just like with every other issue though, start with having a conversation. Don't just ask "is there anything wrong?" Be specific when you ask them and understand that they likely will be too embarrassed to admit having this kind of problem. "I noticed you are aren't eating very much lately. Are you worried about your weight?" Take their matters seriously. Even if their issue seems small when compared to actual adult problems, it could mean everything to them at the time, and the choices they make can have life long consequences.

  • THEY GO FROM GETTING ALL A'S AND B'S TO BARELY PASSING CLASSES. Sometimes our teens will have fluctuating grades which is normal. If you notice their grades really starting to slip, talk to them about why this is happening. It could be that they are having a hard time keeping up with homework. Are their schedules too busy with sports and clubs? Are they spending too much time on their phones and it's making them slack? Do they get anxious while testing which causes them to bomb? It could be laziness or it could be that they are genuinely having a hard time learning the material. Do they need a tutor on a certain subject? Is the class they are in a bit too advanced for them? Once you get to the root of their problem, set up a plan with your teen to fix it. If they can't seem to figure out what's going on and you get the classic "I don't know" response, then reach out to the teachers of the classes they are struggling in. They will tell you exactly what is going on and why their grade is suffering. Most schools have a list of phone numbers and emails of the teachers on their website so you should easily be able to get contact info. If you find out that there is no "good" reason for your kid to be failing, and you figure out that it's just laziness, it may be time to reign in their social calendars. Make their phones off limits during homework and study time. Don't allow them to go to sports events or over friend's houses until they prove that they are working towards better grades.

Being a parent to young kids has so many ups and downs, and that doesn't change at all in the teenage years! The most important thing you need to do with your teens is to keep open communication with them. Build a trusting parent-teen relationship so that if a problem does arise (and it will), your teen will be open to talking to you about it first. Remind them that you only want to protect them and want them to be happy, and tell them that you love them often (don't forget the hugs... No, they are NEVER too old for hugs!). Also remind them that it's very likely you have faced similar situations before and yes, you were indeed a teenager before (waaaay back in the day). Who better to learn from than a person who has already made those same, stupid teenage mistakes??

Feel free to like and share this post with anyone who could benefit from it!

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