As a caregiver and/or parent, you naturally care deeply about your child’s well-being, happiness, and future. When you see your teenager facing challenges, it’s a bit like riding an emotional rollercoaster.
You worry more than your teen likely knows. You want the best for them, but you also want to respect their growing independence. Finding the right balance between guidance and allowing them to navigate their own path can be tricky. Parents and caregivers sometimes get an unfair reputation for being disconnected from their teen’s struggles, but the reality is often quite different.
It’s not uncommon to feel helpless or unsure about how to help. We recognize these complex emotions and the unique challenges faced when your teenager is in distress. We understand that when one member of the family is struggling, it affects everyone.
preparing for college
disagreements with family
developing healthy friendships and peer relationships
figuring out their racial and cultural identity
exploring their sexuality and/or gender identity
Teen years can be an emotional rollercoaster. It’s common for teens to feel overwhelmed by intense feelings that seem impossible to manage. When this happens, teens may cope in concerning ways like lashing out, self-isolating, self-harming, or compulsively seek comfort in social media, games, or even substances.
Even teens from loving homes can struggle to handle big emotions constructively. The most important part in helping a teenager through this phase is connecting them with a therapist they can open up to about their emotional struggles. We know how to build strong bonds with teenagers so they feel safe being vulnerable. Teens need a therapist they can trust with the hard stuff. They need confidence we won’t betray their trust or judge them.
Recognizing that your teenager is struggling can be challenging if they have not opened up about what’s going on. From our experience, here are some behavioral changes to look out for that suggest they need extra support:
Sudden drops in school performance, decreased motivation, or disinterest in previously enjoyed subjects can indicate struggles.
If your teen becomes increasingly withdrawn, avoids social interactions with friends or family, or loses interest in previously enjoyed activities, it may be a sign of emotional distress.
While moodiness is common in teenagers, extreme or prolonged mood swings, intense irritability, anger, or sadness may be signs of underlying issues.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Significant changes in sleep, such as excessive sleeping or insomnia, can be related to emotional or mental health challenges.
Drastic changes in eating habits, significant weight loss or gain, or increased complaints about physical symptoms like stomachaches can be indicators of distress.
Loss of Interest
A sudden loss of interest in hobbies, extracurricular activities, or personal goals may be a sign of disengagement.
Lack of Self-Care
Neglecting personal hygiene, grooming, and daily routines may be a sign of depression or other struggles.
Engaging in impulsive, risky behavior, such as dangerous driving or unprotected sex, could be indicative of emotional turmoil.
Express stress, overwhelmed, or worry
They might say something like, “I feel so overwhelmed lately” or “Everything is too much to handle.”
Comments about stress, excessive worry, or being unable to relax can be subtle indicators of emotional struggles.
They may say, “I’ve been feeling really down” or “I’m just not happy anymore.”
If they mention feeling lonely or isolating themselves from friends or family, it could be a sign of emotional distress.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Comments about difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, or sleep disturbances can be hints of anxiety or other issues.
Worry About Relationships
They may express concerns about conflicts with friends or family, or difficulty connecting with others.
Comments about not feeling understood, especially by parents, can be an indication of the need for better communication or support.
If they mention feeling like they’re not good enough, comparing themselves negatively to others, or feeling inadequate, it may indicate self-esteem issues.
Talk of Self-Harm
Statements like, “I sometimes think about hurting myself” should be taken seriously and may indicate a need for professional help.
Discussing Academic Struggles
Comments about failing grades, difficulty concentrating, or academic stress can be a sign of underlying issues.
Statements About Feeling Lost
Saying something like, “I don’t know who I am anymore” or “I don’t know where I fit in” suggests identity and self-esteem struggles.
Here are some tips on how to talk to your teen about the possibility of getting therapy for them:
Here are some signs that you’re making progress with therapy and benefiting:
Everyone progresses at their own pace in therapy. There is no one right way to do it. If you are not sure whether you are making progress, talk to your therapist. They can help you to track your progress and identify areas where you are still struggling.
If you have out-of-network benefits, your insurance may be able to reimburse you for approximately 50%-80% of each session after the out-of-network deductible is met.
Out-of-network psychotherapy coverage varies by carrier and policy. It can be confusing, but we’re here to help! If you aren’t sure whether or not you have out-of-network benefits, we can check for you. Just email your insurance card and date of birth to email@example.com
Meeting consistently and stably on a weekly basis will help build safety and trust, which is essential for the work to progress on a deeper level. Biweekly sessions impact the effectiveness of therapy.
Often, meeting less frequently results in a ‘catch up’ type of session and does not allow for the time, space, and emotional capacity needed to address what goes on beneath the surface.
Depending on the level of our work, there are also times when meeting two or more times a week is appropriate, and that will always come from us talking and making that decision together.
Therapy can last any time between a year to many more, as long as you are still progressing from our work. The length of therapy depends on what you want and need, and what you want/need can be fluid and dynamic.
Healing and personal growth is not strict or predictable. You can start off by wanting to address something very specific (e.g. “I want to feel less anxious”), but through our work together could realize a deeper meaning to these anxious symptoms (e.g. “I feel anxious because I am terrified of intimacy” to “I’ve had very familiar experiences of being emotionally suffocated when I was close to people”). Realizing these deeper long-standing issues may then shape the focus and length of treatment.
Regardless of why you are seeking therapy and how long you hope to be in treatment, it is important to remember that your thoughts and input are invaluable to me, and the pace and length of treatment will always be a collaborative discussion.
Anyone who wants a space to explore and discover more about themselves can benefit from therapy. If you’re unsure, try asking yourself these questions:
You may not need to know the full answer to these questions to try a few sessions. Sometimes, mulling this over aloud with a therapist can help you sort out your thoughts and answers. That’s also part of the therapy process!