You may find yourself wondering why things seem so hard.
You knew raising a teenager wasn’t supposed to be easy, but you’re doing all the things you can think to do, and yet they’re still having problems at home and at school.
Maybe your youngest highschooler has been really withdrawn lately when they were always a ray of sunshine as a kid and your oldest has been prone to angry outbursts that don’t seem just like a result of normal teenage stress.
Maybe things are even a little more dire, and you’re in denial or embarrassed, because your teen has been caught abusing drugs a time or two, and you don’t even have the heart to ask yourself if they’re addicted, or just testing some kind of boundary.
While it’s impossible not to worry, it is nice to know that you’re not alone.
While no one likes to talk about it openly, other parents in Flower Mound and the greater Dallas area are going through exactly what you’re going through, and it there are ways to identify the root of the problem.
The truth of the matter is, your child may be struggling with their mental health, in addition to any addiction issues.
Many people think that children can’t or just don’t develop mental health conditions, and that’s simply not the case.
Kids, teens, and young adults develop mental illnesses in much the same way that adults do. Three out of four adults with a mental illness even say they first began experiencing symptoms before they were 24 years old.
Even if your child doesn’t have a mental health condition, looking to address behavioral problems right away takes a full assessment of the situation.
How Do I Know if My Teen Needs Help?
It’s really hard to know when we’re doing the right thing as parents, and asking for help can be intimidating.
But when it comes to our children’s long-term wellbeing, we can’t afford not to look into warning signs when they appear. We could even be identifying and preventing imminent harm from befalling them.
Below are some warning signs that you may need to start investigating:
- Increased talks about fears or worries
- Complaints about physical pains (headache/stomachache) that appear to have no medical cause
- Not wanting to go to school
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Repeating actions to make sure they’re done, checking the time frequently, fearing something bad will happen if these steps aren’t taken
- Fear of gaining weight, obsessively counting calories, or stopping eating altogether
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Self-harm, which includes intentionally injuring themselves, or interfering with the healing of a wound beyond typical “picking” and scratching
- Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, or exhibiting low energy during them
If your child is starting to show any of these signs, or anything else seems strange, you need to take action now.
Specifically, in the case of self-harm, or if you believe your child is in danger, contact a professional RIGHT AWAY.
Beyond immediate danger though, there are some beginning steps that can be taken to identify what is bothering your teen and help them learn to cope with it.
What Are a Parent’s First Steps to Improve My Adolescent’s Mental Health?
So, you’ve noticed a change in behavior. That’s a vital first step.
The next steps are all about communication.
Talk to your kid’s teachers, talk to your family doctor, and most importantly, talk to your kids.
It’s okay to talk to your teen about depression or other mental health problems. But so many families view this as taboo.
In a 2018 article for the Dallas Morning News, Madhukar H. Trivedi, M.D. addresses this issue quite frankly.
Trivedi says, “When you take your 15-year-old son for a physical exam, the pediatrician goes through a standard procedure: checks his weight, measures his height, takes his blood pressure. But typically, he will not be asked about his mood or whether he ever wants to hurt himself.
As a psychiatrist, I can't help but question this practice. Teens are more likely to be depressed than have hypertension. Unfortunately, our society tends to ignore the mental health of teenagers until there's an overdose or other tragedy. The time has come for doctors to reach out to teens who need help before they have a crisis.”
When discussing WHY he thinks parents overlook these issues, he says he believes that parents think that drawing attention to the problem, or talking about it, can make it worse.
Does that sound familiar to you? Have you ever wondered if bringing up a serious topic like depression or self-harm will put ideas in your teen’s head?
Most of us have. But Trivedi told the Dallas Morning News that research shows that just talking about depression cannot cause depression, and that avoiding talking about suicides definitely does not prevent them.
Just starting a conversation with your child may get things going in the right direction for improvement, especially if they have been feeling isolated, because opening up communication will help ease some of that feeling right away.
Alongside talking to your child or teen, LISTENING to them may be the most important thing you could do for them.
You can watch your child count calories for weeks and not be SURE if they have an eating disorder, but if they are comfortable coming to you and saying “Mom, Dad, I feel really fat and it’s really upsetting me,” you’re getting a much clearer picture of what’s going on.
Whether your child is comfortable telling you, or even knows if there is a problem, if you see enough warning signs, you may want your child to get a mental health assessment.
Bricolage Behavioral Health, right here in Flower Mound, specializes in adolescent behavioral health, ages 7-17 (18 if still in high school). Call us for an assessment today: 469-968-5700
What Happens If My Child Has a Mental Health Diagnosis?
After being assessed, your child may be diagnosed with a mental illness, or learning disability.
This is nothing to be ashamed of. This simply means that your child will need some extra help learning coping methods to give them the tools to handle their condition. The earlier the intervention and support are provided, the more positive the outcome.
In most cases, proper guidance for children with mental illnesses can help them be just as independent and resilient as other children or teens their age, and they can use those coping methods into adulthood.
Some common disorders affecting children and especially teens are:
- Eating disorders such as anorexia (not eating) or bulimia (purging food after eating)
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
These conditions can interfere with schoolwork and make home life disruptive. Symptoms pilling on can cause emotional overloads at an already emotionally unstable time.
Less common than the disorders above, but still needing to be addressed are also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.
Teens who have been through trauma as a child may exhibit symptoms of PTSD subtly, such as emotional numbness that can be masked as “teen angst,” or avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event that may be hard to pick up on.
Substance abuse is commonly developed in teenagers who have not yet developed healthy coping techniques for existing mental health conditions. Prescription pill, marijuana, and alcohol abuse are the most common at this age.
Contrary to popular belief, most kids who abuse substances don’t do drugs to “look cool,” but rather for the same reason adults do: to self-medicate.
If your teen has developed substance abuse, both their addiction, and their underlying mental illness will need to be treated with dual diagnosis methods.
Bricolage Behavioral Health can come up with an individualized plan for your teen and your entire family to start healing and get your child back on track at home and in school. 469-968-5700
Bricolage Behavioral Health is Here for the Teens of Flower Mound
The staff here at Bricolage Behavioral Health does not want teen mental health to continue being swept under the rug.
We believe that the whole family gets stronger when their kids and adolescents have the best tools to live both functionally and happily, and we have unique assessment methods and counseling plans to make it happen for each individual family we work with.
Offering Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient Care (which can work around your son or daughter’s school schedule!), and aftercare plans, we want to bring out the inner resilience in your children and help your whole family.
Located on Long Prairie Road, near Firewheel Drive and the Montessori Rainbow School, and close one of Flower Mound’s large residential areas, we are convenient to reach out to.
So, don’t wait for your kids to spiral out of control. Talk to them. And then talk to us.
Call Bricolage Behavioral Health for a Mental Health Assessment for Your Child or Teen Today: 469-968-5700
About the BBH Program
At bricolage behavioral health we take the responsibility of serving our patients and their families seriously. The experience of admitting a child to an intensive level of care can be an overwhelming and scary experience for both the parents and the child. Mental illness and substance abuse are problems that affect the entire family. Our program includes: