For many parents, the relationship with their child changes during adolescence. At one point, a child might have been talkative, helpful around the house, and emotionally close to one or both parents. But during adolescence, all that can change. A teen can become quiet, withdraw from parents, and refuse to do household chores. A teen might value friendships over family relationships. And a teen might become rebellious, frequently starting fights with their parents.
Most of this is perfectly normal. It’s natural for a teen to pull away from the family and begin to place more value on friendships. Teens are in search for their identity and need social relationships to get to know who they are outside of the family.
At the same time, the parent-teen relationship might become too tumultuous. It might include too much fighting and perhaps become aggressive. It might include too much distancing, isolation, and withdrawal.
The following list is what to look for in parent-teen relationships that might warrant professional attention from a mental health provider. When the following is present in a relationship, whether it’s you or your teen who is experiencing any one of these, you might call for the assistance of a mental health professional:
- Feeling disconnected or isolated from your teen
- The parent-teen relationship is affecting the entire family
- Feeling distant from all members of the family
- No one can agree on household tasks or the functioning of the family is impaired
- Feeling like a stranger in your own home
- Feeling emotionally distant or numb
- Wanting to avoid people who used to be important to you
- Drinking alcohol more often or taking drugs
- Being constantly on edge or jumpy
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Having problems eating or sleeping
- Feeling hopeless
- Forgetting things often
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you normally enjoy
- Having difficulty living your usual life or just getting through the day
- Acting violently or being physically aggressive
- Exhibiting emotional abuse or coercion
It’s not easy to bring up concerns in a relationship, but it is necessary, especially if it is a danger to one or both members of the relationship. If it is too uncomfortable to bring up a relationship concern with your teen, perhaps involve your spouse or other family members, whom your teen feels comfortable with. You might call a professional from the start. Therapists and psychologists, for example, often know how to say what needs to be said in a gentle and safe way.
Furthermore, if this is your first child entering adolescence you may not know what a healthy parent-teen relationship looks like. you might be adept at a job or how to make money in life or how to succeed, but when it comes to the relationship with your teen, you might need support.
If you, your teen, or anyone in the family is experiencing any one of the above signs, contact a mental health professional for help.