Your Teen's SOS Signals

It's way past midnight, and once again your adolescent has broken curfew. Finally, she arrives home. When you ask for an explanation, she races past you without a word, runs to her bedroom and slams the door behind her.
Infuriating? You bet. But whatever you do, don't react on your emotions. "Instead, stay calm; get the facts and after everyone's had a chance to cool down, talk things out," says John Rowlett, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics who specializes in treating adolescents. He offers these tips on how to communicate effectively about the problem:
How to communicate effectively:

How to communicate effectively:

  • Go to a neutral setting and try to have both parents present.
  • Other siblings or people should not be there.
  • Start out by saying, "I am concerned about..."
  • Don't pass judgment or be defensive.
  • Find common areas that you agree on and establish some rules.
  • Discuss with your teen what would be a reasonable punishment.
  • Forget any kind of physical contact as punishment; this will not work.
  • Some teens communicate better in writing. Encourage your teen to write down their feelings.
When things settle down and times are good, review the boundaries you set. For example: "You know when your curfew is. If you break it, you have crossed the line and will be punished by..." Remind your child of all the good times you have had together and how you have always been there for her.
Still, sometimes no matter how hard you try to do things right, they don't come out right and the behavior problems continue. While an occasional broken rule usually is not cause for concern, there are ways to tell if your child is having significant problems.
Here are some clear signals from your teen that he or she wants or needs help:
  • A sudden, dramatic drop in school performance.
  • A change in friends, eating, dress or favorite activities.
  • Fighting or getting arrested.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Sexual promiscuity.