By Emsie Martin
Teenagers can sometimes make life very difficult for you, especially if you do not understand them, but it is often also very difficult for a teenager to admit that they need help. They try to solve problems themselves or they try to hide them. This makes it very difficult for parents to determine whether their teenager needs professional help or whether it is merely normal behaviour.
Alicia Coertze, a specialist counsellor in Pretoria, who specialises in teenagers, students and young adults gave the following advice:
What are the signs that parents should look out for?
- Signs of extreme worry and stress
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Acting out (Teenagers often act in different ways to get attention, like running away, behaving sexually irresponsible or inappropriate, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, engaging in illegal activities etc.)
- A sudden poor academic performance
- Hurting themselves
- Change in friendship groups and activities
- Inappropriate anger
- Extreme irritation
- Signs of depression (they lose interest in things they previously enjoyed, they are sad, have no appetite etc.)
- Extremely low self-esteem
- Make remarks such as: “I wish I was not here” or “No one would care if I ran away.”
What to do if you suspect your teenager needs counselling
It is important to realise that there is more behind your teenager’s misconduct than meets the eye.
The first conversation you have with your teenager will set the tone of their attitude towards therapy. It is possible that your teenager would feel shy about getting help and therefore it is very important for you as a parent to avoid showing feelings of being shy or guilty.
Do not be afraid to talk to your teenager about this subject. Talk to them and make them aware of your worries in a loving and calm way. Maybe they would rather talk to someone different than their parents. Remember, counselling is unsuccessful if a teenager is forced to talk to someone when they are not willing or ready. If a teenager is forced, it makes the counselling process much more difficult for the counsellor or psychologist because they can only help insofar the teenager allows them to.
Counselling can be very helpful for your teenager, not only regarding the bigger issues but also with the small things such as stress management, time management, managing of emotions and their journey of self-discovery.