Any parent of a teenager knows, they have a lot of emotional ups and downs. What with the pressures of school, their social lives and the general confusion that comes with growing up, it’s no wonder they occasionally get a little overwhelmed.

Most of the time, all they really need is the time and attention of their parents. But sometimes, problems come along that are a little more difficult to deal with, such as major life changes, prolonged mental stress, or tricky family issues. It’s at times like these that counselling services can be a great help.

Counselling can help with a whole range of issues, but some of the most common include:

  • Divorce and separation: Have you and your partner split up recently? Teenagers often struggle when it comes to significant life changes and separation or divorce can trigger a whole range of emotions: sadness, anger, fear, regret – or even guilt.
  • Bereavement: Has a member of the family died recently – or even within the past few years? If your son or daughter was particularly close to that person, they may benefit from having someone to help them process their feelings.
  • Bullying: Bullying can be particularly damaging because it so often goes unnoticed. If you think your son or daughter is being bullied, try to talk to them about it – and contact their school.  Counselling can be an effective way of helping them re-build their self-esteem and resilience following problems with bullying.
  • Stress at school: Just recently, thousands of students have faced the pressures of exams and are now waiting for results. Many struggle to deal with this – and worry about the consequences of not doing well.
  • Family issues: Often, what your teen is going through may relate to what’s happening with the family as a whole. In these cases, Family Counselling can be a good option.

Signs something may be wrong

Teens often internalise problems rather than communicating about them openly, so it can be difficult to know if they’re in trouble. However, if you notice any of the following signs, you may want to consider getting further advice or support.

  • Change of behaviour. Have they started to act out or get into trouble? Or perhaps they’ve become quiet and withdrawn and are spending a lot of time in their room? A noticeable change in behaviour can be part of their normal stages of development, but could also be a sign that they need some extra support.
  • Sleep patterns. Often, when we’re feeling upset, physical things like sleep patterns are the first to be affected. If your teen is finding it harder to sleep, it may be a sign something is causing them anxiety. Likewise, sleeping significantly more than usual can be an indicator that they’re demoralised or even depressed.
  • Eating patterns. Is your teen eating noticeably more or less than they usually would? Or at different times of day? Are they refusing to sit down for meals with the rest of the family? Eating patterns and appetite often change around emotions. If you’re worried about your teen’s eating, you may want to consult your GP or School Nurse.
  • Health Problems. Is your son or daughter reporting frequent headaches, tummy upsets, are you noticing changes in mood and lack of motivation? These are often the symptoms of anxiety. First stop is to talk to them about going to a local GP.
  • School grades. A significant drop in school grades can be a key indicator that they’re feeling distracted or upset. Remember: your teen’s teachers are a key resource when it comes to making sure they’re alright. They may express themselves at school in ways they wouldn’t at home – in the knowledge that you won’t be able to see.

Signs a teen may need support:

Emotional Changes:

  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying for no apparent reason
  • Irritability, frustration or feelings of anger
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Feeling overwhelmed with life
  • Conflict with family and friends
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, fixation on past failures
  • Exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Inability to keep up with the requirements of school

Changes in Behaviour:

  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Frequent complaints of body aches and headaches
  • Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
  • Neglected appearance — such as mismatched clothes and unkempt hair
  • Disruptive or risky behaviour
  • Self-harm, such as cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing