In my opinion the answer is a resounding no. By nature, most adolescents have a hard time coming right out and saying that they are struggling and might need help. Instead, most young people demonstrate that they are dealing with a problem or negative emotion by acting out.
“Acting out” can be defined as doing something to attract the attention of a caring adult, whether a parent, guardian, teacher, or doctor. Adolescents are saying, “Hey! Pay attention to me. I don’t know how to articulate what’s wrong, so I need you to figure it out and ask me about it.”
Adolescents act out in a variety of ways, including a drop in grades, withdrawing from family and friends, spending too much time outside the home, spending more time on the computer or engaged in unproductive activities, showing a decrease in motivation in activities they once enjoyed, and increased irritability or significant change in mood.
Adolescents may also engage in more high-risk activities, such as skipping classes or school, general rule breaking, substance use/abuse, restrictive or binge eating, breaking curfew, non-suicidal self-injurious behavior (commonly known as “cutting”), or sexual intercourse outside the bounds of a relationship.
Any of the above may be a sign that your adolescent is struggling with a negative emotion or situation. As a parent, it is your job to read the clues and talk to your child about your observations. When beginning this conversation, don’t demand answers. Instead, point out the differences in behavior, let your adolescent know that you are concerned, and ask your adolescent to help you understand what’s going on. You may get the answer “nothing” several times. Don’t give up. Your adolescent may not be prepared to answer your questions. However, if the answers are beyond what you, as a parent, can address, it may be time to seek professional assistance.
If you decide to seek professional assistance for your child, you need to:
- Decide if you would like to use an agency or private practitioner.
- Check your insurance to see which agencies or providers are covered or if you have out-of-network benefits.
- Review different practitioners’ web pages or any information available to assess if you feel a specific provider or agency will meet your child’s needs.
- Narrow the list and then conduct phone interviews with different providers.
If needed, request a consultation with the final few providers to determine the appropriate provider for your child. For more information, call SMD Associates LLC in Darien at 203-636-0080.