How to be a normal teen

Is your teenager rebelling, defying your curfew, or hanging out with questionable kids? Here’s how to nip behavior problems in the bud.

To be fair, no one has ever pretended that parenting a teenager was going to be easy. Still, until your own kids reach that stage, it’s tempting to believe your family will be immune to teen behavior problems. No, you tell yourself, your teenager will never talk back, stay out too late or pierce their eyebrow.

Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents, says Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively,” he explains. “It’s the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. With the right approach, you can troubleshoot the following teen behavior problems in a relatively civilized fashion.

Teen Behavior Problem 1:

Your Teen Seems To Hate You

One minute your sweet child is begging you to come on the class trip or to lie down with them while they fall asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, they start treating you like dirt, discounting everything you say and snickering at your suggestions. If you look closely, you’ll see that you’ve been through this before, when they were a toddler — only instead of shouting “no!” like a two-year-old would, a teenager simply rolls their eyes in disgust.

“It’s so hard for parents when this happens,” says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a psychologist specializing in kids and families at Emory University in Atlanta. “But part of adolescence is about separating and individuating, and many kids need to reject their parents in order to find their own identities.” Teens focus on their friends more than on their families, which is normal too.

Your Solution

Sometimes parents feel so hurt by their teens’ treatment that they respond by returning the rejection — which is a mistake. “Teenagers know that they still need their parents even if they can’t admit it,” says Goldman. “The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they’re feeling internally.” As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.

But no one’s saying your teen should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you; when this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. One solution is the good, old-fashioned approach of: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” By letting your teenager know that you’re here for them no matter what, you make it more likely that they’ll let down their guard and confide in you once in a while, which is a rare treat.

Continued

Teen Behavior Problem 2:

Communication Devices Rule Their Lives

It’s ironic that teenage forms of communication like instant messaging, texting, and talking on cell phones make them less communicative, at least with the people they live with. In today’s world, though, forbidding all use of electronic devices is not only unrealistic, but unkind. “Being networked with their friends is critical to most teens,” says Goldman.

Your Solution

Look at the big picture, advises Susan Bartell, PhD, an adolescent psychologist in New York. If your child is functioning well in school, doing their chores at home and not completely retreating from family life, it’s probably best to “lay off.” It’s also OK to set reasonable limits, such as no “texting” or cell phone calls during dinner. Some parents prefer not to let teens have computers in their rooms, since it makes it harder to supervise computer usage, and this is perfectly reasonable. Many experts also suggest establishing a rule that the computer has to be off at least one hour before bedtime, as a way to ensure that teens get more sleep.

One good way to limit how many minutes your teen spends talking on their cell and texting: Require them to pay their own cell phone bills. And do your best to monitor what your child does when they are online, particularly if they are using networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. You still own the home and computer — so check into parental Internet controls and software to monitor use of any questionable web sites.

Teen Behavior Problem 3:

Staying Out Too Late

It’s 10:30 p.m. and you told your daughter to be home by 10 p.m. Why do they ignore your curfew again and again?

“Part of what teens do is test limits,” explains Goldman. “But the fact is that they actually want limits, so parents need to keep setting them.”

Your Solution

Do some research before insisting that your child respect your curfew because it’s possible that yours is unreasonable. Call a few of your kids’ friends’ parents and find out when they expect their kids home. Goldman suggests giving kids a 10-minute grace period, and if they defy that, to set consequences — such as no going out at night for a week.

If it seems like your child is staying out late because they are up to no good, or don’t feel happy at home, then you need to talk with them and figure out what might be going on. However, if your curfew is in line with what’s typical in your teen’s crowd, then it’s time to set consequences and then enforce them if your teen continues to break your rules. When you make a rule, you have to mean it. You can’t bluff teenagers — they will always call you on it.

Continued

Teen Behavior Problem 4:

Hanging Out with Kids You Don’t Like

You wince every time your son traipses through the door with their greasy-haired, noisy buddies. Should you suck it up, or say something?

Your Solution

Kids can wear weird clothes, pierce their lips, act rudely and still be decent kids, says Bartell, who advises parents to hold off on criticizing something as superficial as fashion in their kids’ friends. “Teenagers are so attached to their friends that it’s like criticizing them directly.”

On the other hand, if you know that your child has taken up with a group of troubled teens who skip school and do drugs, a talk is in order. “Without putting him on the defensive, tell your child you’re concerned about who he’s hanging out with and that you’re worried he’s doing drugs,” says Bartell. While you can’t forbid your child to hang around with certain kids, you can intervene and try to nip dangerous behaviors in the bud. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help about hanging out with a crowd engaged in negative behavior. Counseling or family therapy can help.

Teen Behavior Problem 5:

Everything’s a Drama

Every little thing seems to set your daughter off lately, and the more you try to help, the more they sob or shout or slam the door.

Part of being a teenager is feeling things intensely, so what may seem like no big deal to you is hugely important to her.

Your Solution

Parents tend to trivialize the importance of things in teenagers’ lives, says Bartell: “What happens is that kids feel misunderstood, and eventually they will stop telling you anything. Right now it is the most important thing in the world that her best friend is flirting with her boyfriend, and you need to take it seriously.”

Don’t offer advice, disparage their friends or try to minimize it by saying that one day they’ll see how silly high school romances are. “Just listen and sympathize,” says Bartell. And put yourself in their position — because, after all, you were once there yourself.

Sources

SOURCES: Nadine Kaslow, PhD, psychologist, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education, Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA. Susan Bartell, PhD, adolescent psychologist, New York, NY.

Dr. Markham —
I have been seeing a counselor and she mentioned yesterday that she thought one of my girls was narcissistic. Do you have any advice on this?

It could be upsetting to hear that from a counselor, and I don’t think it helps anyone parent better to see their child through the lens of that kind of label. So maybe we should start by talking about what Narcissism means.

Narcissism develops when a child does not feel good enough to please the parent and cause the parent to accept and love them for who they are. The parent may have praised the child, but only for certain traits, with the implication that the child isn’t good enough unless they exhibit those traits. To gain admiration from the parent, the child develops a “false self” to cover up their real self, which they think is shameful. This false self may have specific attributes that the child thinks the parent wants, such as being smart. But all narcissists share the need to see themselves as successful winners in every way.

Unfortunately, a false self is by definition very fragile and needs constant “pumping up.” So narcissists are preoccupied with proving that they are superior. They exaggerate their achievements and expect others to defer to them. If someone questions their constructed superiority, that person is automatically a threat and the narcissist attacks them.

This is not a pleasant way to live, but the narcissist desperately clings to their false self, which they think is the only thing protecting them from rejection (and remember, for a child rejection means death.) So the narcissist needs always to put themselves first, and cannot afford to develop empathy. That means they often work hard to be charming, but attack at the slightest hint that you aren’t falling for the image they want to project.

The normal setbacks of life that teach most of us that we aren’t perfect, and we need to value others, are lessons that a narcissist cannot afford to learn. This limits the development of empathy and also means they often have poor judgment and take surprising risks, because protecting their pumped-up self-image outweighs other concerns.

In fact, some experts think that narcissists are stuck in the toddler stage of development, with limited empathy and poor judgement. It’s during the toddler years that humans have to face how small they are, but they learn to love themselves anyway, because their parents love and admire them, without needing them to be anything but who they are. If a toddler doesn’t get their developmental needs met, they may develop defenses against that pain — defenses that can operate for the rest of their lives. So, like toddlers, narcissists have an inflated view of their own capabilities, which is a defense against their secret fear that they’re unlovable and worthless.

So what does this mean for your teen?

All teenagers are in a developmental stage that could be seen as self-centered and insecure. Their work is to develop themselves, which means that they’re so focused on themselves that they don’t have a lot of mental energy left to notice how they’re affecting others, even if they’re actually empathic people. They greatly value their peers, so they put peers first, and it is easy for parents to feel like their teen doesn’t even notice the parent’s feelings. All teens are still figuring out a realistic assessment of their capabilities and where they fit in the world. All of them are still developing good judgment and tend to be in denial about risk.

Therefore, all teens fit the description of narcissism at least somewhat. And they will grow out of it! For that reason, I would discourage any diagnosis of a teen as narcissistic. And I don’t think it helps you parent better to see your child as a label of any kind.

Instead, I think all teens need us to empathize, to set limits as necessary, and to stay connected. So if your teen is showing signs of self-centeredness, I recommend:

1. Take a deep breath before you speak to your teen, especially if you’re feeling judgmental.

Remind yourself that this is a normal phase that will get better as your teen matures, and that you value this relationship. You’re still teaching, but your teen will only learn if they feel safe and loved.

2. Empathize.

Kids develop empathy for others by experiencing our empathy for them.

3. Avoid labeling your teen, which just reinforces her behavior.

Instead, describe her behavior and the way it makes you feel.

“When you don’t call me as we agreed, I feel worried. I also feel hurt. It makes me think you don’t value our relationship enough to keep our agreements and you don’t care if I am worrying about you.” (You should know that some teens unconsciously pull such stunts precisely to worry their parents because they want proof that they are indeed loved.)

Then, empathize and create safety to begin a discussion.

“I know that something must have kept you from calling me, even if it was just getting caught up in what was happening with your friends. I want to understand. Can you tell me about it? I promise I’ll keep my mouth shut and listen.

After your discussion, set a limit and give a choice: “The rule is that you call me when you say you will. I need to feel comfortable to give you the freedom you want, and you calling me when you agree to is what makes me comfortable. Do you want to commit to calling me when you leave and head to another party, or do you want to stay in this weekend?”

4. Accept and admire your teen for exactly who they are.

For all kids, but especially for teens who feel that they need to be something other than what they are, the most important thing is to accept them as they are. Every teen deserves the message that they don’t have to be perfect to inspire our love and admiration. They just have to be themselves.

Remember that to grow and change, your teen has to feel loved, seen, heard, accepted. That’s the only place healing can ever begin.

5. Read some good books on teens.

Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Michael Riera is one of my favorite books for parents to better understand and guide their teen.

The Smart Love Parent: The Compassionate Alternative To Discipline is written for parents of all age kids and is one of the best books I have read on how to love kids back to emotional health who seem to be headed down a wrong road.

6. Take care of yourself so you don’t resent it if you feel your teen isn’t paying attention to your needs.

In other words, treat yourself with love and respect, and then you won’t take your child’s self-centered behavior personally.

Whatever the question with kids, love is the answer. If your child isn’t extending you basic courtesy and respect, it’s an indication that you need to do some repair work on the relationship. Err on the side of love, always. They won’t always be this way. They’re teenagers!

Warning message

How to be a normal teen

Teens go through a series of emotional and physical changes that can result in baffling behavior. Knowing what is normal and what is not can help parents spot emerging mental health issues.

Your child turns into an alien about the time she turns 12 or 13. Not only are you, as a parent, baffled by these new behaviors, but your teen is also frequently baffled and alarmed at the new thoughts and feelings she is experiencing.

The short story of puberty is that at some point in a child’s growth—usually between the ages of 12-15—the brain begins releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that spurs the pituitary gland to release two more hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). For boys, LH and FSH then begin stimulating the production of testosterone. For girls, the same two hormones begin stimulating the production of estrogen. As the reproductive organs begin to mature, both boys and girls start experiencing physical changes as well as emotional changes.

This rush of hormones and the emerging physical changes signals the progression of the child into an adult—at least physically. In cultures of the past (and in some cultures still existing throughout the world), the onset of puberty means that the child has become an adult, capable of being entrusted with the tasks of contributing to the larger community and becoming part of a new family unit, including bearing and raising children with a spouse. Modern American teens, however, find themselves existing in a sort of limbo, caught between childhood and adulthood for around six years.

While the teen years allow your child to gain more of an education and to become familiar with the responsibilities she will take on as an adult, it’s also a time when mental health issues can begin to surface. Early diagnosis and treatment can help teens overcome the issues or learn to cope with them in a healthy way as they grow into adults.

Part of early diagnosis is knowing what teen behaviors are normal and which are not. The following chart can help parents observe their teen’s behavior and decide when they need to call on the appropriate mental health professionals should mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, or conduct disorders appear to be emerging.

Normal Teen Behavior

Teen Behavior that Causes Concern

Wanting to spend more time with peers and less time with family

Not wanting to spend time with either family or friends, i.e. shunning all social activity

Reluctance to get up early for school

Absolute refusal to attend school—especially if this behavior happens suddenly and accompanies other signs of distress or depression

Needing more sleep or developing a larger appetite during growth spurts

Sudden changes in energy levels, i.e. sleeping abnormally long or not being able to sleep at all; sudden changes in appetite, i.e. consistent overeating or undereating accompanied by quick fluctuations in weight

Sadness and anxiety following fights with friends or a breakup with a boy/girlfriend

Sadness and anxiety that doesn’t correct itself or decrease in intensity after a few days to a couple weeks.

Some light risk-taking or experimenting with sex, alcohol, drugs, or self-harming behaviors such as cutting

Extremely risky behavior and/or delinquent behavior, including disregard for house rules, parents’ concerns, or laws of society; turning to cutting as a form of emotional and physical release

Turning to a beloved pet for comfort instead of a parent or friend

Deliberately harming family pets or torturing or killing any animal

Worrying about physical appearance and trying to fit in

Sudden and significant changes in eating behaviors, over-exercising, and other indications of eating disorders

While the above is not by any means an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common types of behaviors that can indicate whether or not your teen is progressing as normally as possible through adolescence.

If your teen’s behavior is making you concerned, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional counselor or therapist who specializes in teen behavior. Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute specializes in female adolescent behavior, offering inpatient and outpatient programs designed to help teen girls and their parents cope with mental health issues that may arise during adolescence. In addition, our facility also serves adolescent boys as well as adults. Visit our Homepage today for more information about these services, or call (512) 819-1100 for a free and confidential assessment.

This guest article from YourTango was written by Frank Medlar.

We all know the typical stereotype that teens are moody. You remember your own teen years … how intense your feelings were, how you soared to edgy emotional highs and then plummeted down into stress and heartache over troubles that seem now insignificant.

Depression is a different matter. It is not just plain moodiness. Instead, it is a mood disorder — a serious mental health condition that can sometimes even lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Until recently, it was thought that children and teens do not get mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.

The sad truth is they do. The third leading cause of death among teens is suicide caused by untreated or undertreated depression.

For example, please consider these statistics:

  • The average age of depression onset is 14 years old.
  • By the end of their teen years, 20 percent of teens will have had depression.
  • More than 70 percent will improve through treatment — therapy and medication.
  • But 80 percent of teens don’t receive help regarding their depression.

What’s worse? Untreated depression can lead to substance abuse, academic failure, bullying (30 percent for those bullied, 19 percent for those doing the bullying), eating disorders, and even suicide.

Symptoms of Teen Depression

How do you tell the difference between clinical depression and ordinary teen moodiness?

These are some of the signs parents may notice. If they last for at least two weeks, what you are seeing may be depression:

  • An irritable, sad, empty or cranky mood and belief that life is meaningless.
  • Loss of interest in sports or activities they used to enjoy, withdrawal from friends and family, pervasive trouble in relationships.
  • Changes in appetite, significant weight gain or loss.
  • Excessive late-night activities, too much or too little sleep, trouble getting up in the morning, often late for school.
  • Physical agitation or slowness, pacing back and forth and/or excessive, or repetitive behaviors.
  • Loss of energy, social withdrawal, withdrawal from usual activities, or boredom.
  • Making critical comments about themselves, behavior problems at school or at home, overly sensitive to rejection.
  • Poor performance in school, a drop in grades, or frequent absences.
  • Frequent complaints of physical pain (headaches, stomach), frequent visits to school nurse.
  • Writing about death, giving away favorite belongings, comments like “You’ve be better off without me.”

Keep in mind that a lot of these symptoms are also indicative of normal teenage behavior. That’s why teenage depression can only be diagnosed by a trained health or mental health professional — like a child psychologist or psychiatrist.

Depression often runs in families. The causes may be related to physical or sexual abuse or triggered a stressful life event like divorce, a death or a breakup. Whatever the cause, depression is a biological condition. It is not something to be ashamed of and it needs to be treated. A combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended for teens.

It is essential that the whole family receive education and support, which is available through organizations like Families for Depression Awareness. They offer extensive resources on depression for teens, including a Teen Fact Sheet that this article draws from.

If you think your teen is depressed, get them evaluated. Ask for a referral to a mental health clinician from your doctor or nurse, a local mental health clinic or hospital, friends, clergy, support groups, or clinician listed in our Find Help section.

More related content from YourTango:

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 4, 2021.

  • Overview

What is it? Nutrition for adolescents (teenagers) means giving them enough nutrients from age 12 to18 years of age. Your teenager will go through several growth spurts during this time. He will become taller and gain weight quickly. Make sure he has a wide variety of food for snacks and meals. This will give him enough nutrients in the food he eats. Nutrients are calories, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Nutrient Needs: The amount of calories and protein that your teenager needs each day depends on his age and weight in kilograms. Divide your teenager’s weight in pounds by 2.2 to figure out what he weighs in kilograms (kg). The calories and protein needed for growth are higher if your teenager is active in sports or fitness programs. Ask your caregiver what a good weight is for your teenager at each phase in his growth. They can help you raise or lower calorie intake to stay at the best weight.
    • Calories
      • From 12 to 14: about 45 to 55 calories per kg
      • Age 15 to 18: about 40 to 45 calories per kg
    • Protein
      • Age 12 to 14: about 1 gram per kg
      • Age 15 to 18: about 0.9 grams per kg
    • Vitamins and minerals: Your teenager does not need to take extra vitamins or minerals if he eats a balanced diet. Ask your caregiver before giving your teenager any vitamin or mineral supplements.
  • Changing Food Habits
    • Teenagers are often very busy with school, work, and sports schedules. Help your teenager plan his day if he will not be home for meals. Send healthy snacks or packed lunches with him. This will help him avoid filling up on “junk” food or high fat foods. They may need extra snacks to take with them or meals they can prepare quickly.
    • Your teenager still learns from your healthy eating habits. Teach by example and praise his good food choices whenever you can. Try not to be critical of his appearance at this time of life. Teenagers can easily become too worried about their body image. If they are eating too much or too little, it can effect their growth. Talk with your caregiver if you are worried about your teenager’s eating habits.
  • Food Group Choices
    • Give your teenager at least one serving per day of a high vitamin C food. Examples are citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, potatoes, and green peppers. Your teenager also needs one serving per day of a high vitamin A food. This includes spinach, winter squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes.
    • Choose lean meats, fish, and poultry foods for your teenager. Also, give your teenager 2% milk and lowfat dairy foods after age 2 to limit saturated fat intake. Avoid fried foods and high fat desserts except on special occasions. This will lower his risk for heart disease when he is older.
    • The sample 3000 calorie menu below will help you plan meals and snacks. If your teenager needs more calories, add more foods from each food group every day.

Serving Sizes: Use the serving size list below to measure amounts of food and liquids.

  • 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) of liquid is the size of a soda-pop can.
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of food is the size of a large handful.
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of food is about half of a large handful.
  • 1 ounce of cheese is about the size of a 1 inch cube.
  • 2 tablespoons (Tbsp) is about the size of a large walnut.
  • 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) is about the size of the tip of your thumb (from the last crease).
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) is about the size of the tip of your little finger (from the last crease).
  • A serving means the size of food after it is cooked. Three ounces of cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

DAILY SERVINGS FOR AN TEENAGER’S DIET

  • Breads / Starches: Most teens need 5 to 10 servings per day. One serving is the amount listed below.
    • 1 bagel or muffin
    • 2 slices bread
    • 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, potatoes, or rice
    • 1 ounce or 3/4 cup dry cereal
  • Fruits: Most teens need 2 to 3 servings per day. One serving is the amount listed below.
    • 1/2 cup canned fruit or fruit juice
    • 1 piece fresh fruit, such as an apple, orange, peach, or pear
    • 15 to 20 grapes
    • 1-1/2 cups fresh berries or melon
  • Meat / Meat Substitutes: Most teens need 3 to 5 servings per day. One serving is the amount listed below.
    • 1/2 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
    • 3/4 to 1 cup cooked dried beans or legumes
    • 1 egg
    • 1 ounce lowfat or regular cheese
    • 2 to 3 ounces meat, fish, or poultry
    • 2 to 3 Tbsps peanut butter (after age 2)
  • Milk or Yogurt: Most teens need 4 to 5 servings per day. One serving is equal to 1 cup lowfat milk or yogurt. If your teenager does not like milk or yogurt, one ounce of cheese or 1/2 cup of cottage cheese may be used instead.
  • Vegetables: Most teens need 2 to 3 servings per day. One serving is the amount listed below.
    • 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetable
    • 2 cups salad greens
    • 1 cup vegetable or tomato juice
  • Your teen should eat only enough of the following foods to meet their calorie needs.
    • Fats: Most teens need 2 to 4 servings per day. One serving is the amount listed below.
      • 6 almonds or 10 peanuts
      • 2 Tbsps cream cheese, avocado, or low calorie salad dressing
      • 1 tsp oil, margarine, mayonnaise, or butter
      • 1 Tbsp salad dressing
    • Sweets and Desserts: Eat only enough from this group to stay at a good body weight. Many teenagers can eat 1 to 3 servings per week without gaining too much weight. Remember too much sweets and desserts will also effect the amount of skin problems your teenager has, like pimples. One serving is a medium portion, such as 1/8 of a pie, 1/2 cup ice cream, a 3-inch pastry,1/2 cup pudding, or 2 small cookies.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child’s care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child’s dietary health. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your child.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Warning message

How to be a normal teen

Teens go through a series of emotional and physical changes that can result in baffling behavior. Knowing what is normal and what is not can help parents spot emerging mental health issues.

Your child turns into an alien about the time she turns 12 or 13. Not only are you, as a parent, baffled by these new behaviors, but your teen is also frequently baffled and alarmed at the new thoughts and feelings she is experiencing.

The short story of puberty is that at some point in a child’s growth—usually between the ages of 12-15—the brain begins releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that spurs the pituitary gland to release two more hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). For boys, LH and FSH then begin stimulating the production of testosterone. For girls, the same two hormones begin stimulating the production of estrogen. As the reproductive organs begin to mature, both boys and girls start experiencing physical changes as well as emotional changes.

This rush of hormones and the emerging physical changes signals the progression of the child into an adult—at least physically. In cultures of the past (and in some cultures still existing throughout the world), the onset of puberty means that the child has become an adult, capable of being entrusted with the tasks of contributing to the larger community and becoming part of a new family unit, including bearing and raising children with a spouse. Modern American teens, however, find themselves existing in a sort of limbo, caught between childhood and adulthood for around six years.

While the teen years allow your child to gain more of an education and to become familiar with the responsibilities she will take on as an adult, it’s also a time when mental health issues can begin to surface. Early diagnosis and treatment can help teens overcome the issues or learn to cope with them in a healthy way as they grow into adults.

Part of early diagnosis is knowing what teen behaviors are normal and which are not. The following chart can help parents observe their teen’s behavior and decide when they need to call on the appropriate mental health professionals should mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, or conduct disorders appear to be emerging.

Normal Teen Behavior

Teen Behavior that Causes Concern

Wanting to spend more time with peers and less time with family

Not wanting to spend time with either family or friends, i.e. shunning all social activity

Reluctance to get up early for school

Absolute refusal to attend school—especially if this behavior happens suddenly and accompanies other signs of distress or depression

Needing more sleep or developing a larger appetite during growth spurts

Sudden changes in energy levels, i.e. sleeping abnormally long or not being able to sleep at all; sudden changes in appetite, i.e. consistent overeating or undereating accompanied by quick fluctuations in weight

Sadness and anxiety following fights with friends or a breakup with a boy/girlfriend

Sadness and anxiety that doesn’t correct itself or decrease in intensity after a few days to a couple weeks.

Some light risk-taking or experimenting with sex, alcohol, drugs, or self-harming behaviors such as cutting

Extremely risky behavior and/or delinquent behavior, including disregard for house rules, parents’ concerns, or laws of society; turning to cutting as a form of emotional and physical release

Turning to a beloved pet for comfort instead of a parent or friend

Deliberately harming family pets or torturing or killing any animal

Worrying about physical appearance and trying to fit in

Sudden and significant changes in eating behaviors, over-exercising, and other indications of eating disorders

While the above is not by any means an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common types of behaviors that can indicate whether or not your teen is progressing as normally as possible through adolescence.

If your teen’s behavior is making you concerned, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional counselor or therapist who specializes in teen behavior. Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute specializes in female adolescent behavior, offering inpatient and outpatient programs designed to help teen girls and their parents cope with mental health issues that may arise during adolescence. In addition, our facility also serves adolescent boys as well as adults. Visit our Homepage today for more information about these services, or call (512) 819-1100 for a free and confidential assessment.

If it suddenly seems like your teen believes the universe revolves around her, you aren’t alone. Selfishness is common during adolescence, when teens become highly focused on their developing world view and values.

Although selfish behavior is normal for teenagers, consistent selfishness can hinder your teen’s previously healthy relationships and create other negative effects, like a poor work ethic or lack of social consciousness.

While your teenager does need some patience as she grows and forms her own moral code, it is important to know what behaviors are normal, and how you can help to encourage her to be more selfless, and more focused on the needs of others.

Kids are naturally selfish and must be taught concepts like sharing and generosity. Unfortunately, this behavior sometimes becomes worse during the teenage years, when children are trying to achieve independence. Your teen is focused inward while she struggles to find her own identity, which can result in thinking less about others and breeding conflict more often with peers and authority figures.

The reason teenagers act selfishly could be because of the way their brains operate. According to a study by University College London, teenagers hardly use the area of the brain that considers other people’s emotions and thoughts when making a decision. They are even less likely to consider their own emotions than adults do.

Selfishness can emerge in many different ways. A teen may be unwilling to share family resources with her siblings or parents, or may forsake responsibilities to do the things she wants to do. Sometimes, selfishness is just a general attitude. Your teen may talk about herself as though she holds more value than other people, and might express feelings of entitlement or arrogance.

Parents can help diffuse a teenager’s selfish actions by talking with her to deconstruct her choices. When you see her acting selfishly, explain the potential harm caused by her actions and help her think about the underlying reasons for her behavior.

Set boundaries so your teen knows selfish behavior will not be tolerated. Additionally, provide plenty of opportunities for her to experience selflessness, such as donating used items or volunteering in the community. Other opportunities to serve can be found through church mission activities, school philanthropy projects and nonprofit organizations.

Let your teen choose a cause or organization that is meaningful to her. For example, a young animal lover may be motivated to donate or volunteer to benefit the Humane Society or the American Society for the Protection of Companion Animals. If she feels vested in the organization’s mission, she’ll commit more fully to the work.

Help your teen find other like-minded young people to spend time with. By helping her connect with those who share similar priorities, it will allow her to build friendships with other service-oriented youth, and will help show her that lots of people are driven to help others.

As a parent, you are one of the most important influences in your teenager’s life. Throughout her childhood, she has watched you, and other trusted adults, to learn how to act. Model good behavior by living selflessly yourself. Find ways to give back to your community and your church, and show your children that having a heart for service is a priority in your family. Encourage your teen to find her own ways to help others and discover how she can give back, too.

Finally, remember that selfish behavior can sometimes accompany other more high-risk behaviors, such as drinking and driving, cheating or engaging in sexual activities. Self-centered teens may perceive themselves to be invincible or think they can’t get caught, feeding the potential for disaster.

To learn more ways to turn selfishness to selflessness, please contact Compass Rose Academy today.

As people pass from childhood into their teen years and beyond, their bodies develop and change. So do their emotions and feelings.

Adolescence Is a Time of Change

During the teen years, the hormonal and physical changes of puberty usually mean people start noticing an increase in sexual feelings. It’s common to wonder and sometimes worry about new sexual feelings.

It takes time for many people to understand who they are and who they’re becoming. Part of that involves better understanding of their own sexual feelings and who they are attracted to.

What Is Sexual Orientation?

Sexual orientation is the emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction that a person feels toward another person. There are several types of sexual orientation; for example:

  • Heterosexual. People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: Heterosexual males are attracted to females, and heterosexual females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are sometimes called “straight.”
  • Homosexual. People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: Females who are attracted to other females are lesbian; males who are attracted to other males are often known as gay. (The term gay is sometimes used to describe homosexual individuals of either sex.)
  • Bisexual. People who are bisexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes.
  • Asexual. People who are asexual may not be interested in sex, but they still feel emotionally close to other people.

During the teen years, people often find themselves having sexual thoughts and attractions. For some, these feelings and thoughts can be intense and seem confusing. That can be especially true for people who have romantic or sexual thoughts about someone who is the same sex they are. “What does that mean,” they might think. “Am I gay?”

Being interested in someone of the same sex does not necessarily mean that a person is gay — just as being interested in someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean a person is straight. It’s common for teens to be attracted to or have sexual thoughts about people of the same sex and the opposite sex. It’s one way of sorting through emerging sexual feelings.

Some people might go beyond just thinking about it and experiment with sexual experiences with people of their own sex or of the opposite sex. These experiences, by themselves, do not necessarily mean that a person is gay or straight.

What Is LGBT?

You may see the letters “LGBT” or (“LGBTQ”) used to describe sexual orientation. This abbreviation stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” (or “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning”).

Transgender isn’t really a sexual orientation — it’s a gender identity. Gender is another word for male or female. Transgender people may have the body of one gender, but feel that they are the opposite gender, like they were born into the wrong type of body.

People who are transgender are often grouped in with lesbian and gay as a way to include people who don’t feel they fit into the category of being “straight.”

Do People Choose Their Sexual Orientation?

Why are some people straight and some people gay? There is no simple answer to that. Most medical experts, including those at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA), believe that sexual orientation involves a complex mix of biology, psychology, and environmental factors. Scientists also believe a person’s and hormones play an important role.

Most medical experts believe that, in general, sexual orientation is not something that a person voluntarily chooses. Instead, sexual orientation is just a natural part of who a person is.

There’s nothing wrong about being LGBT. Still, not everyone believes that. These kinds of beliefs can make things difficult for LGBT teens.

What’s It Like for LGBT Teens?

For many LGBT people, it can feel like everyone is expected to be straight. Because of this, some gay and lesbian teens may feel different from their friends when the heterosexual people around them start talking about romantic feelings, dating, and sex.

A 2012 survey by the Human Rights Campaign found that 92% of LGBT teens had heard negative things about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

LGBT teens might feel like they have to pretend to feel things that they don’t in order to fit in with their group, family, or community. They might feel they need to deny who they are or that they have to hide an important part of themselves.

Fears of prejudice, rejection, or bullying can lead people who aren’t straight to keep their sexual orientation secret, even from friends and family who might support them.

Some gay or lesbian teens tell a few close friends and family members about their sexual orientation. This is often called “coming out.” Many LGBT teens who come out are fully accepted by friends, families, and their communities. They feel comfortable about being attracted to someone of the same gender.

But not everyone has the same good support systems. Even though there is growing acceptance for LGBT people, many teens don’t have adults they can talk to about sexual orientation. Some live in communities or families where being gay is not accepted or respected.

People who feel they need to hide who they are or who fear discrimination or violence can be at greater risk for emotional problems like anxiety and depression. Some LGBT teens without support systems can be at higher risk for dropping out of school, living on the streets, using alcohol and drugs, and trying to harm themselves.

Everyone has times when they worry about things like school, college, sports, or friends and fitting in. In addition to these common worries, LGBT teens have an extra layer of things to think about, like whether they have to hide who they are.

This doesn’t happen to all gay teens, of course. Many gay and lesbian teens and their families have no more difficulties than anyone else.

The Importance of Talking

For people of all sexual orientations, learning about sex and relationships can be difficult. It can help to talk to someone about the confusing feelings that go with growing up — whether that someone is a parent or other family member, a close friend or sibling, or a school counselor.

It’s not always easy to find somebody to talk to. But many people find that confiding in someone they trust (even if they’re not completely sure how that person will react) turns out to be a positive experience.

In many communities, youth groups can provide opportunities for LGBT teens to talk to others who are facing similar issues. Psychologists, psychiatrists, family doctors, and trained counselors can help them cope — confidentially and privately — with the difficult feelings that go with their developing sexuality. They also help people find ways to deal with any peer pressure, harassment, and bullying they might face.

Whether gay, straight, bisexual, or just not sure, almost everyone has questions about physically maturing and about sexual health — like if certain body changes are “normal,” what’s the right way to behave, or how to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s important to find a doctor, nurse, counselor, or other knowledgeable adult to be able to discuss these issues with.

Beliefs Are Changing

In the United States, and throughout much of the world, attitudes about sexual orientation have been changing. Although not everyone is comfortable with the idea of sexual orientation differences and there’s still plenty of prejudice around, being gay is getting to be less of a “big deal” than it used to be.