When Life with Your Teen Goes from Bad to Worse

Mother and Daughter After QuarrelHave you gone from being a cherished parent to the dumbest person on the face of the planet – all in the space of an hour? Welcome to the world of teens. They ride a roller coaster of emotions and often take you with them. But how can you tell when something more serious is taking place?

“Psychiatric and learning disorders in children and adolescents are real, common and treatable,” says Dr. Cynthia Mester, director of The Children’s Center, which is part of the Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois. “We encourage parents and guardians to bring their child in for an assessment at the first sign of a significant change in behavior. Research shows the sooner mental health professionals become involved when there is a behavioral issue, the greater the potential for resolution and/or for diminishing the overall impact.”

She shares the following cues that something is going on in a child or adolescent’s life:

  • Mood changes
  • High degree of irritability
  • Disrupted sleep or appetite patterns
  • Decreased level of activity

When evaluating a change in behavior, consider what’s typical for the child and whether the change in behavior is significantly interfering with the child’s functioning in a negative way. To do this, parents and teachers should think about the onset, frequency, intensity and duration of the change in behavior.

Don’t wait to contact a mental health professional if you are worried about your child, Mester said. For children to succeed in school, at home and in life, they need to receive proper treatment.