A blog post

Top 5 Warning Signs Your Teen is Becoming ‘At Risk’

“Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority and show disrespect for their elders.  They contradict their parents, and tyrannize their teachers.”  This was written by Socrates 2000 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Problems with teens aren’t new, but things have obviously changed.  Today’s youth, especially young women, face a plethora of issues that effect normal adolescent development.  Exposure to an explicit violent amoral media, drugs and alcohol at school, predators on the internet, bullying, and gang activity are among the new issues teens have to deal with today.

How does a parent know their daughter or son is becoming “at risk”?

1)  Abrupt Changes:  Adolescence is a time of great change.  Brain research shows teens are undergoing massive growth and reorganization in the pre-frontal cortex.  As a parent you must pay attention to abrupt dramatic changes in attitude, values, beliefs, dress, appearance, friends, patterns, and relations with parents.

2)  Instability:  We know teens are moody and unpredictable; however, marked changes in a teen’s emotional state that is not temporary is cause for concern.  Extreme moodiness, sadness, hostility, agitation, belligerence, personality changes, talk of suicide or hopelessness are serious warning signs for you as a parent to seek help for your teen.

3)  Irresponsibility:  Most teens vacillate between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay dependent.  When a teen begins to show a pattern of irresponsibility, i.e. lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort – this begins a trajectory that should be interrupted, not ignored.

4)  Divorcing their Parents:  All teens and parents have moments they just can’t seem to resolve–disagreements, even some anger or withdrawal.  However, teens cannot be allowed to divorce their parents in favor of a peer group.  Parents must stay close to their teens.  Extreme behaviors such as yelling, threatening, outright defiance or rebellion are cause for concern.

5)  Refusal:  Teens can be stubborn and uncooperative; however, outright refusal to receive parental feedback, communicate, or acknowledge problems is not acceptable and should be considered serious.

But wait, there’s more!

As if the above information wasn’t enough for parents to deal with.  Of equal concern is the juvenile system itself.  Today in Portland, and many other major jurisdictions across the country, it’s not uncommon for a juvenile to have a half dozen felony convictions and still be in the community and public schools associating with your kids.

We know that one of the prime risk factors for anti-social behavior is “negative peer associations”.  It is crucial for today’s parents to be vigilant and know who your kids are with, who their parents are, and all critical contact information.

A Chinese proverb says, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark”.

Looking for help?  The Academy at Sisters is a private therapeutic boarding school in Central Oregon for at risk girls.  Call 800-910-0412 and ask for Chesley or Denise.

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