EARLY WARNING SIGNS YOU MUST NOT IGNORE!The feelings you experience, as well as behaviors and attitudes you observe in your adolescent, can be signs that he or she may have serious, even life-threatening problems. If this list defines or even suggests, your child, you should immediately seek the help and advice of a professional such as a member of the clergy, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
IF YOUR ADOLESCENT:
- Suddenly changes friends, and you get a bad feeling about them or your teen won't let you meet them
- Loses all interest in school and his/her grades plummet
- Runs away frequently, sometimes for days at a time
- Significantly changes his or her sleeping and/or eating patterns
- Exhibits a "don't give a damn" attitude
- Spends hours and hours at the computer--especially on the Internet or playing violent video games [in 2017, that includes social media use, too; excessive use is considered more than 60 minutes per day.]
- Suddenly loses interest in everything
- Displays sudden bursts of violence or rage
- Changes his or her behavior toward the family pet or other animals
- Procures a weapon
- Writes dark, depressing poetry or songs or draws pictures depicting death, suicide, and/or violence
- Begins self-mutilation (cigarette burns, cuts, carving words or symbols on his/her body, self-tattoos, self-pierces) which he/she may attempt to hide with long-sleeved clothing, even in warm weather
- Begins to give his or her possessions away
- Engages in suicidal and/or criminal ideation, talk, or action
OR IF YOU:
- Find evidence of torturing animals
- Find evidence or even suspect fire-setting
- Find that money and/or jewelry is missing or that the liquor cabinet is empty
- Flip your gut every time you talk to your teen
- Feel that nothing makes sense anymore
IS YOUR ADOLESCENT ASKING FOR HELP?The behaviors listed below can be warning signs. Do not let yourself rationalize, justify, excuse, or ignore any of them. A decline in their teen's grades is one of the most common reasons parents come to us for help. When we begin to talk, we find that several other issues were also at work in the teen's life.
If your son or daughter has sent you even one or two of these messages, he or she may be in more trouble than you think. It is now time for you to get more information about what your teen is doing. Consult with teachers, school counselors, a therapist, or clergy. If you feel your situation is more urgent, see "Red Flags” on page 51 and consult the Part IV section for more information about professionals and programs to help your teen and yourself.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION WHEN YOUR TEEN:
- Wants you to buy lots of Gatorade, mouthwash, aerosol products, or household cleaning agents. These can be used to cover up drug use or as recreational drugs themselves.
- Begins to stay up alone and late at night.
- Comes home and hurries to his/her room.
- Is glib or evasive when you ask about unexplained charges on the phone bill such as calls to 900 numbers [in 2017, also look for increased data usage].
- Leaves drugs around where you can't help but see them.
- Leaves incriminating letters and notes open where you will find them or has incriminating phone conversations within your earshot so you can't help but understand the content.
- Binges or eats secretly.
- Changes appearance abruptly: hair color or cut, clothes, jewelry, body piercing, tattoos.
- Shows consistently and increasingly poor school performance and correspondingly poor grades.
- Gets suspended or expelled from school, especially if it happens repeatedly.
- Asks to be home-schooled.
- Is ready to settle for a GED or tries to convince you it would make sense (or the school counselor suggests it as an alternative to staying in school).
- Suddenly quits a sports team, drops out of clubs or activities, or changes friends (particularly if this happens in conjunction with other items on this list.
- Stays on the Internet for hours. [in 2017, including phones or other electronic devices.]
- Suddenly loses or gains a lot of weight.
- Appears with lots of new things (jewelry, clothes, and so forth) without having asked you for money or incurring any credit card charges.
- Is physically threatening you and/or siblings.
- Exhibits a change in behavior toward the family pet or other animals.
- Has unexplained scratches, burns, or bruises on his or her body or always wears long sleeves and trousers, even in warm weather. (This may indicate self-mutilation.)
- Starts seeing a man or woman many years older than herself or himself.
- Spends hours alone, especially in a dark room, maybe writing depressing or even suicidal poetry.
- Listens to music which glorifies suicide and/or death and/or violence.
- Uses the Internet for sex.
- Is being sexually promiscuous.