6 Things You Should Definitely Freak Out About

Upset mother and son at homeMost of the time your job is to stay calm, parent with confidence and remain connected to your son.

No easy task for sure! But you roll with the punches and the ups and downs of this wild and wonderful ride of parenting a teenage boy.

However, sometimes you do need to freak out a little bit. There are definitely things you should worry about. Don’t sweat the small stuff is usually really good advice, but what about when things start to get serious?

Here is what I am talking about.

There are usually small signs that could signal trouble. Not things worth freaking out over, but definitely worth paying attention to.

For example . . .

  • He starts hanging out with a new group of kids
  • He seems moody and irritable all of a sudden
  • He becomes withdrawn and isolates himself
  • His grades start to drop and he is not completing his homework

For the most part these are normal experiences of adolescence. When you should start to worry is when any of the following start to happen.

He starts to drink alcohol, smoke pot or use other drugs and it becomes more than experimentation. Maybe you find out he is cutting himself, otherwise known as self-harm, which is always a sign of distress.

You have that parent instinct that he is struggling with major depression or serious anxiety. He is trying his best to cope and cover it up, but it’s not working so well.

He seems addicted and over committed to playing video games to the point where other things are suffering in his life, such as family relationships or grades.

He starts cutting school and/or sneaking out of the house at night. Or you find out he has developed a habit of stealing or setting things on fire.

I could come up with more examples, but I think you get what I am talking about. There is definitely a time to be concerned and to take action. More than anything you want your son to be healthy and happy. You want him to navigate the teen years and become a successful young adult.

At this point the most important thing is not focusing on consequences or discipline, but rather figuring out what is really going on and getting your son some help. This is not an easy road to travel, but here are some suggestions for you to consider.

1. Talk to your spouse, partner, close family members or friends

Start with your closest networks and ask for help and support. Talking to other parents of teenage boys can be reassuring and give you some ideas you may not have considered. If you are religious, talking to your pastor, priest or rabbi could be a good place to start. You need someone that you trust to share your experiences with and get feedback about what is going on with your son and your family.

2. Consult with a professional

Whether you choose a parent coach or a licensed therapist, it is a good idea to consult with a professional who can give you solid guidance and help you figure out some solutions. A professional will help you sort out the things that are normal adolescent development and the things that are signs of more serious issues. You can also get support in improving your parenting approach and finding ways to help your son that will actually bring you closer.

3. Get your son into individual or group counseling

If your son is struggling in his life there is a chance that he will not open up to you. He may not let you help him, but he may benefit from getting support from an experienced counselor. There are certainly challenges both in finding local counselors who specialize in working with teens and also in getting your son to agree to go, but it could make a huge difference.

I really do believe that support groups are one of the best solutions for teen boys because they can connect with and learn directly from their peers. With a good facilitator in charge, a support group could be a really good choice.

I recognize that counseling is not the only way to get a teenager back on course. Sometimes things like getting a part time job, signing up for sports or changing schools are the right way to go, but pursuing counseling should be on your short list for sure.

4. Consider an out of home placement

This is always a last case scenario, but sometimes finding an out of the home placement is absolutely the right decision.

It may be a wilderness program, a therapeutic boarding school, a drug rehab program or even a military school. Sometimes the challenges are so significant that parents can’t provide the structure that is necessary. This is always a tough decision, but worth considering if your other efforts have not been successful.

I usually recommend connecting with a qualified educational consultant in your local area to get expert help in choosing the right placement. Take a look at our referral list for good options in our area.

Are you ready to take the next step?

Get in touch with us today and find out how counseling can help your teenager and your family.

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Uriah Guilford

Uriah Guilford is a Marriage & Family Therapist. He specializes in working with teenage boys, young adults and families. Uriah helps young people who struggle with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and anger management. He is also a father, husband and a pretty awesome drummer.