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When adolescents need help: Tips for parents

October 11, 2016


When adolescents need help: Tips for parents

Adolescence is a time when bodies and minds are changing rapidly. When you add the social challenges that come with school and peer groups, it can be a perfect storm of crisis for young people.

During this time, adolescents will move toward independence and may struggle with the mental, emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. Issues such as body image, gender identification and bullying (particularly, cyber-bullying) have come to the forefront of parents' radar in recent years.

These and other issues carry with them anxiety, which can make it difficult to cope. So, it's important parents understand what is and isn't normal.

What's normal

Teenagers are known for occasionally behaving impulsively. This is because the amygdala region of the brain responsible for these actions develops before the frontal cortex, which controls reasoning. This means it's normal for adolescents to occasionally:

  • Act impulsively
  • Engage in fights
  • Misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • Take part in risky behavior

What's not

"Adolescents are known to have occasional moodiness as the result of developmental changes," says Candace Rutherford, LCSW. "Ongoing negative behavioral changes are key signs to watch for, though." Parents should be aware of negative behavioral trends, including:

  • Prolonged moodiness or irritability
  • Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed
  • Regular expressions of hostility, worries or fear, or crying
  • Extended avoidance of parents
  • Abandonment of longtime friendships for a different group of friends
  • Regularly feeling "sick" If your teen displays warning signs, you can get help through a number of resources.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has details on the emotional and cognitive development of children and adolescents. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has information for parents and caregivers on the disorders and other challenges adolescents are facing. Summit Health has a number of providers who specialize in adolescents. Visit SummitHealth. org/BehavioralHealth for more information.

Crisis Hotline

WellSpan Health partners with Keystone Health to make crisis intervention services available to the community. Keystone Health operates the crisis hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline can be reached at 866-918-2555.