You made it through the newborn years. You survived the “terrible twos”. Now you’ve entered the teenage years and just don’t know what to do. Teenagers are completely different than children—and sometimes it feels like you don’t even know your own kids anymore.
So, how do you determine what’s bad behavior and what’s normal teenage behavior? What should you be concerned about? And, what should you just chalk up to teenage behavior?
Normal Teenage Behaviors To Look Out For
Normal teenage behavior can sometimes appear rebellious or strange. As your kid transitions from child to adolescent, their bodies are changing, their moods are shifting, and they’re learning to feel comfortable in their own skin. Some behaviors might alarm you; others are just normal for any teenager. If your teen is engaging in the following behaviors, you should not be alarmed.
Like with the “terrible twos”, young adults can be easily frustrated, angered, or triggered into a bad mood. Teenagers don’t throw temper tantrums, but they’ll get a little moody at times. Don’t take this the wrong way. Mood swings are common for teens because of hormonal changes and undeveloped brains—they’ve got a few more years to grow into them!
While teenager’s actions can seem irrational to parents, it’s part of normal teenage behavior and should be expected.
Spending Less Time with Family
Is your teen spending less time with Mom and Dad? Do they want to go out with friends more than they want to participate in family game night? That’s normal, too. Spending more time with friends and less time with family is very normal teenage behavior. While it might feel hurtful, it’s a necessary part of a teen’s social development to be accepted by their peers. It should be encouraged, not discouraged.
Now, if your teen is avoiding everyone—especially friends and classmates—to spend time alone, this could be cause for concern.
Challenging the Norm
Is your teen staying out late? Are they asking for a later curfew? Did they recently change hairstyles? Have you heard them throw in a cuss word or foul speech to their everyday language? At this stage, teenagers are testing the water to see how much they can get away with—and this is normal behavior too. They are asserting their independence by pushing boundaries, but it doesn’t always mean they are engaging in harmful behavior.
As a parent, you’ll want to decide what’s worth fighting about. You might decide to ignore the new hair or style of dress and focus on the misbehaviors that can be detrimental—like skipping class, using negative language, or breaking curfew.
Teenagers may also try alcohol, sex, or mild drugs (like marijuana). Whether because of peer pressure or curiosity, choosing to engage in some mild experimentation is a choice every adolescent will experience. As a parent, you’ll want to monitor these activities and make your stance known early on. If you don’t like it, say it—but don’t overreact. Overreacting to your teenager telling you they’ve had sex or tried a sip of beer is a great way to keep them from opening up in the future.
Instead of getting mad, try to have an open dialogue with your child and make them aware that you are someone who’s here to listen and not judge. Then, set boundaries.
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