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How Parents Can Tell What's "Normal Teen Stuff" Versus an Issue that Requires Therapy

A question I get from parents a lot will involve describing a teen's behavior - like moodiness, irritability, or sleeping a lot - and asking if this is them "just being a teenager" or if it's deeper than that and may require therapy. Every kid is different, but here are a few questions that might be able to guide you towards an answer:

  • Do their symptoms cause a change in their daily functioning in school, with peers, or in activities they enjoy? For example, did they used to love playing soccer, but all of a sudden lost interest? Or they used to spend every afternoon with friends but now stay home alone in their room instead? Examples like this point to a bigger issue than just "teen stuff."

  • Is there a safety issue involved, like self-harm or suicidality? If there is a safety issue, you should always seek professional support.

  • Have you asked them directly if they feel depressed, anxious, or that they need more support? Hint: if they say "I don't know" to any of these (instead of a direct "no") then it usually points to a "yes."

  • Have other people like their teachers or friends mentioned changes in them? Sometimes this can point out things that occur in other environments that you have less access to, indicating that an issue is bigger than you recognize.

  • Do they have anything that they look forward to (whether they say this or not), or does everything make them irritable or upset? If no, this could potentially signify depression or anxiety.

  • Do they have anyone who they feel comfortable talking to about what's going on with them - a friend, coach, teacher, other family member, etc. - or are they keeping it all in to themselves? If no, then they may benefit from an outlet for their emotions and any questions they have or support they need.

If any of these questions hit home, it may mean that your child could benefit from therapy. At the very least, a child therapist can be an objective third party to figure out if therapy really is the right solution or if there's other things that your teen could benefit from. If you could use some support with any of the above, schedule a free 15-minute consult with me today.

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