Could your teen be headed down a dangerous path? Would you even know if he were? Don’t be in denial and don’t kid yourself that only other people’s kids get in serious trouble. Here are five warning signs to help you uncover what’s going on with your child:
1. He isolates himself from your family.
If your once social child starts spending an inordinate amount of time away from home or locked in his room, this is a red flag. Did he once appreciate family values and now seems to completely resent family togetherness? If your teen starts withdrawing from you or your spouse, there's a reason. As a parent, it's your responsibility to identify what's behind the change.
2. He has an extreme shift in mood.
Is your child chatty and friendly one moment, then quiet and angry the next? Has he lost interested in his once-favorite hobbies? Don't just chalk it up to growing pains. He might be hanging out with the wrong crowd or experiencing changes — hormonally, neurologically or socially. Do not just let it go -- as your child gets bigger and stronger, he could become even more rebellious. Now’s the time to get to the bottom of any underlying issues.
3. He abuses drugs or alcohol.
Teens often start experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol unbeknownst to their folks. Pay close attention to your child’s appearance and behavior. Check his bedroom for drug paraphernalia – look under the mattress and dressers, behind the drawers and inside pockets of clothing. Some of the most trusting parents are the ones who are the easiest to take advantage of.
4. You have a family history of alcoholism or drug abuse.
There is a higher incidence of drug and alcohol use with teens if they've had this history in their family. Of course this does not mean your teen is destined to abuse drugs, but it could be genetic or it’s been modeled for them so be on the lookout.
5. He is taking risks.
Don't chalk your child's truancy, vandalism, bad grades, or petty theft up to "teens being teens." When your teen seems to throw caution to the wind and not care about consequences, it’s a warning sign. It also indicates that he doesn’t have the ability to connect his choices with consequences.