If there is one thing that I would tell parents who have a child about to go into their teens, it would be to watch out for any drastic changes in their teenager. That may sound simple enough but teenagers are generally wishy washy and chaotic. Adolescents is a time of confusion and hardship where teenagers try to figure out what they believe, who they are and what makes them happy. Along with all of this, throw in peer pressure and a virtual confusing onslaught from the media.

Now more than ever, teenagers need their parents to give them the guidance and help that they really need. Teenagers are children still figuring the world out and if they are left to aimlessly figure out the world for themselves, they will inevitably follow some bad roads. Do they intentionally choose bad roads? Do they know that something is wrong, bad, harmful or full of hardship and follow it anyway?

I believe that teenagers often don’t even really have any idea that the road they are following is bad in the first place. Teenagers generally do not understand the relationship between choice and consequence. They often make choices because they truly don’t know what will actually happen as a result of that choice!

Don’t assume that your teens even really know what “trouble” is. If they are young person, a child coming into adulthood, they haven’t even experienced “trouble” in the first place, they may not even know what it’s like! The world “trouble” often times be completely meaningless to them because they really haven’t experienced it. And the truth of the matter is, teenagers can’t really get into that much trouble compared to an adult. The court system is easier on them and their parents aren’t allowed to kick them out until they are 18. No matter how bad they screw up, they will have a roof over their head and food on the table.

It’s important to allow them to experience things and learn on their own but it’s also important to teach them about choice and consequence, don’t assume that they already know what will happen when they make a bad choice. As they do their experiencing and growing, you should be aware of their behaviors and the different things they are doing. They will show a wide range of behaviors. I believe that most of these types of behaviors are generally symptoms of greater problems, some may be obvious, while others are not.

Other than some of the obvious signs such as getting arrested or kicked out of school, this report is designed to teach you the top ten warning signs that they might be following a bad road and need their parents to provide additional help and support.

10. They are isolating more at home
Has your teenager gone from a fun, bright, bubbly young person to that person that just stays in their room all the time? If they are avoiding you and the family in general it may be because they don’t want their family in their business and that warrants the question, if they don’t want their family in their business, what are they hiding?

9. There is a noticeable change in their overall mood
Creating a baseline for what is a ‘normal’ mood for a teenager can be quite complicated. But in general, parents know their kids and they can tell when something is different. Listen to that instinct when it’s telling you that something has really changed and they are behaving differently. Notice when they seem unusually anxious, upset or depressed than usual. This could be an indicator that something is wrong.

8. There is a noticeable or drastic change in their appearance
Teenagers always go through periods of identity crisis and they will always go through different phases of hair styles and dress. If they seem to change their appearance seemingly overnight then you may want to ask yourself why they decided to do it at that point in time. A sudden, drastic change in appearance can mean that they had a drastic change in their friend entourage and that could be bad.

7. They stop taking interest in things that they used to love to do
Let’s say that your teen loves playing an instrument or maybe they love playing a particular sport. If they suddenly seem to lose interest in it, this could mean a few things. It could mean they changed friends, it could mean that they are abusing some kind of substance. Almost all drug users notice a lack of interest in things that they used to love doing even if they have typically been very good at it. If they suddenly lose interest in something that they used to love, you may want to try and figure out why.

6. They are spending less and less time at home
This does not necessarily mean that they are getting into bad things but if they are spending less time at home, you have to wonder where they are spending all of their time. Who are they with and what are they doing with their time? These are important questions to think about if they are spending less and less time at home.

5. They become more and more vague when you ask them questions
It is very typical for a teenager who is not making good decisions to become vague and ambiguous when you ask them questions. If you ask them where they have been and they just say ‘hanging out,’ if you ask them who they were with and they say ‘just some friends,’ these vague answers usually indicate that they are hiding something and that they don’t want you in their business.

4. They become hostile and aggressive whenever you talk to them about anything
In the therapy business, we sometimes call this power thrusting. It’s a very effective tactic used by teenagers and drug users to keep people out of their business. Aggression, intimidation, hostility and even violence are easy ways to make sure that your parents keep a wide berth around you, your space, your friends and your life in general. A lot of parents are afraid of their teenagers and generally avoid them because they don’t want to be the recipient of these behaviors.

3. They become secretive about who their friends are who they are hanging out with
This is probably one of the biggest warning signs. I’ve worked with a lot of teenagers and most of them would tell me that they are not influenced by their peers that they are original, that they are individual and that they do their own thing. This could not be further from the truth. Teenagers are not above influence. If they are disappearing with people you have never met and they refuse to bring home then this should be a huge cause of concern.

2. They make a sudden and drastic change in their group of friends and who they hang out with
Unfortunately for you and your teenager, friends mean so much to them. Having a good group of friends around is paramount. It’s possible that your teenager will spontaneously ditch their bad friends in order to be with better ones. I wish that was more common and more likely. If they make a drastic change in their entourage and have an entirely new group of friends, it would be important to ask and wonder why they decided to change friends at that time.

1. They don’t seem to care what happens to them
Some teenagers start to adopt an attitude like they don’t care what happens to them. Whether they get kicked out of school, get in trouble with the law, fail all their classes, get grounded and so on, it seems to make little difference to them. When your teenager stops caring about things in general and they don’t care what happens to them, it is almost always a symptom of something else going on and it could be many different things.

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