Therein lies the anxiety.
You sense something is off, but you do not know for sure, and you do not know where to begin.
Your mind races and plays out possible scenarios:
Is she depressed? Is he doing drugs? Is she sleeping around? Am I losing him?
Parenting a teenager is a difficult thing. Even the best kids can be challenging to engage. After all, it is just so uncool to talk with your parents about what is really going on!
Here are 5 signs that your teenager is struggling, and what you can do about it.
1. He makes minimal to zero, eye contact with you.
The ability to confidently interact with authority figures is the first thing to go when a human being is walking in shame. If your teenager cannot look you in the eye then chances are they have done something they are not proud of.
Remedy: Carve out one night a month for just you and your kid to do something fun together. Make sure that part of that evening is shared over a meal, so that you are facing each other. It’ll be awkward at first, but these things take time.
2. She spends more time alone in her room than normal.
It is no secret that a teenager’s bedroom is their safe haven. The one place on earth they have ownership over. It is a part of growing up, and being made in the image of God, the yearning for ownership over space. Teenagers having a difficult time gravitate towards isolation. If your kiddo is hiding out in their room more than normal, something is off.
Remedy: Keep technology out of the bedroom. Phones, computers, and televisions. If your kiddo wants to use them they are welcome to in the living room. It’s sad to me that this is seen as archaic these days.
3. The names of his friends become less and less familiar.
If your teenager’s group of friends is changing and you’re getting less and less and face time with them, it’s likely that they aren’t people he’d be proud to bring home (much less kids you’d want him spending time with!). Teenagers will take on the characteristics and moral compass of the people they spend the most time with. Keep an eye out.
Remedy: Make your home a place he would want to bring his friends. Have cheap food on the ready, invest in a pool or ping pong table, and don’t hover when they hang out. At the very least make an effort to get to know his friend’s parents.
4. You keep catching her in white lies.
Maybe she didn’t take out the trash and said she did. Or perhaps she said she would have her phone off by 10pm but the cell phone bill shows texts going out well past midnight. These aren’t life altering lies, but they are likely symptoms of deeper deceit. If your kiddo is comfortable lying to you about the small stuff, how much more will she be okay with keeping the big stuff from you?
Remedy: Explain that your desire to offer more freedom and that only happens when you can trust her. Nothing in you wants to lock her down, but if she can’t be honest with you then you have to. Encourage a culture of transparency in your home. Usually that starts with the parents.
5. He has no redemptive hobbies or interests.
And no, I do not think a case can be made for redemptive video or computer games. If your teenager is inactive chances are they are having a hard time. Be it lack of social engagement, physical activity, or pursuit of a hobby or interest. If your teenager is content to go to school, do homework, and go to bed something is off. If they spend their weekends watching television or playing on their iPhone it is a tell-tale sign that something is up.
Remedy: Figure out what brings your teenager life and jump in with them. If he loves metal concerts then surprise him with tickets and bring your headphones. If he likes to hike, then be the one to initiate. Don’t cave when they pushback, but don’t expect them to enjoy your hobbies and interests.
Sometimes it is easier to just throw in the towel, but the parents who hang in there are the ones who build lifelong relationships with their kids. If you think your teenager is struggling and you cannot figure out how to break through, it’s worth talking to a friend, mentor, or pastor about it. Raising teenagers takes a village. Be intentional about your resources and don’t be afraid to reach out. Remember, we only get one shot at this! It’s worth it.
What do you think?
If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray,
does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains
and go in search of the one that went astray?
And if he finds it, truly, I say to you,
he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven
that one of these little ones should perish.
Is your teenager struggling? Who do you lean into when you’re having a difficult time to break through? What resources have helped you along the way?