Troubled teenagers - what to look out for

2016-06-02 06:00

DON’T hesitate to seek professional help should you suspect your child is in trouble.

With the recent spike in missing teen reports issued to media by SAPS and posted on social media, clinical psychologist, Cathrin Venter, advises parents to develop a good relationship with their children.

Although there are some children who run away from home with friends or a boyfriend just to have a good time, there are some seriously troubled teens who need help.

“The best way to help our children is to develop a good relationship with them. This should happen long before a child is experiencing any problems. Trust is the key. When a child trusts a parent, they are more willing to share their deeper emotions, and what is happening in their lives,” said Venter.

Parent’s reaction to upsetting information regarding their children set the stage for a child’s willingness to share information.

“Children generally don’t want to lose their parent’s respect. Showing shock, shame and disgust will only alienate a child. However, acceptance, deference, and unconditional love will make it easier for a child to be honest about their feelings,” she said.

Parents should know important information about their children for example, what is important to them, what their thoughts are about drugs, suicide and running away.

“It is also important to know where children spend their time, and who their friends are and teach your child the necessary life skills to deal with stressful situations,” said Venter.

Stress and depression can be caused by peer pressure, bullying, and pressure to perform in school, relationship issues, body image problems and uncertainty about the future.

Some warning signs that suggest your child is unhappy, stressed or depressed include:

• significant changes in their mood;

• changes in their sleeping patterns e.g. sleeping more or less;

• school problems, including drop in school grades or truancy;

• oppositional behaviour;

• challenging boundaries, for example pushing time limits

• secrecy;

• self-harm - when you notice unexplained marks on your child’s body;

• red eyes, poor appetite, and skin rashes could point towards possible drug abuse; and

• negative self-talk - “Nobody wants me, I am just a number. Nobody will miss me, I wish I was dead.”

Venter has her practice in Port Shepstone.

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