What to do When Your Teen is In Crisis?

Parenting can feel like a never-ending cycle of new challenges waiting just around the corner. The teen years can bring with them a slew of challenges that can leave you feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and confused about your next step to help your teen.

If your defiant teen is acting out in ways that seem to be escalating, and you have no idea how to help them through this period of crisis, what should you do?

It can’t be denied that it’s hard to be a teen in today’s increasingly digital world. Our teens are inundated with hormones, peer pressure, school pressure, social pressure from various platforms, and so much more. If your teen blurts out to you amid an argument that you can’t possibly know how hard their life is, there may be an element of truth to that. The world today is quite different from the world that most of us grew up in.

Learning how to best help a teen in crisis can start with learning more about them and their world and reality.

Reassure your teen

A teen in crisis can often feel like it is them versus the world. Reassure your teen that you are on their side and there for them. As your teen gets treatment for the concerns they are facing, you can demonstrate to them that you are, in fact, in their corner.

Let your teen know that you love them, support them, and that you’ll get through these difficulties together as a family.

Initial reactions may not be as warm as you’re hoping for, and a teen in crisis is likely to respond with anger and doubt to anything most people say to him. All you can do is keep demonstrating to him that you are by his side. Be sure to get everyone in the family involved. Everyone should feel confident that they will be heard and have value.

Start the important conversations

It’s not an easy conversation to start, but it’s an important one—mental health.

Whether you’re familiar with the mental health concerns your teen is facing or it’s entirely new for you, starting that conversation is essential. Not only does it let your teen know that what he’s feeling doesn’t make him a problem, but it’s the first step in getting him the help that he needs to heal.

If there is a family history of mental health concerns, share some details with your teen. This can help to remove some of the stigmas he may be feeling about what he’s experiencing.
Normalize mental health concerns, normalize mental wellness, and listen to what he says about his thoughts and feelings.

Starting those conversations opens the doors for a teen who may need to come to you when things are at a tipping point.

Recognizing red flags in your teen

How can you tell when your teen needs help?

There are several potential red flags to be on the lookout for:

  • An unusual drop in grades, along with refusing to finish homework.
  • Skipping school entirely.
  • Refusing to do his household chores.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Threatening physical harm to siblings, parents, and peers.
  • Lack of concern for consequences or any authority.
  • Inability to control temper.
  • Any signs of substance abuse.
  • A disregard for personal safety with sexual relationships.

There may be other areas of concern, and you know your teen better than anyone else, so you are best suited to figure out what he may be struggling with.

Don’t discount the impact that peers and social media can have on your teen’s well-being. It may be that your teen can benefit from less access to social media and the unrealistic lifestyles often being portrayed. Teens can find themselves struggling with self-image and depression as they watch everything on social media.

When it’s time to get outside help

As parents, we want to help our family as best we can. When it comes to a teen in crisis, it’s okay to admit that you need outside help to support you and your teen. The help that your teen will need will depend on the type of crisis that they are facing.

Some of the concerns your teen could be faced with include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of suicide, or attempts
  • Self-harm
  • Threats of harming themselves or others
  • Acting aggressive or hurting others

Helping a teen in crisis

The most important thing to do when you are faced with a teen in crisis is to focus on their physical safety.

Has your teen hurt themselves or threatened to harm themselves?

Have they taken over the counter, prescription, or illicit drugs?

Do not hesitate to call for paramedics or law enforcement backup to help you. When your teen is in crisis, the priority for anyone involved will be to get them to safety and stabilize them. If it feels like an emergency, most psychiatric hospitals will be able to provide an emergency assessment at any hour of the day. If one is not near you, then any emergency department of a hospital can help you and your teen if their immediate health and well-being are at risk.

Once you are confident that your teen is safe, the following steps will depend mainly on the type of crisis you face.

Mental health concerns

If your teen has been struggling with his mental health, there are several ways for you to get him the help he needs.

  • Individual counseling
  • Group sessions with other teens in crisis
  • Family counseling
  • Medications to address the mental wellness of your teen

Your teen may also benefit from extra help at school. This could take the form of having a safe space to retreat to when things get overwhelming. It could also look like extra time to take tests or complete assignments. Working with your teen’s school and school counselors can also help your teen feel less alone with his struggles.

Concerns with substance abuse

If your teen is dealing with substance abuse, the treatment he can benefit from will likely look similar to the treatment for those struggling with mental health. Your teen may also benefit from time in a residential treatment center that can help him focus on recovery in a new, supportive environment.

Whether your teen is a danger to himself, to others, or could use help finding his way back to mental wellness, it’s important to get him the right kind of treatment. Many teens find that a residential treatment center offers an environment that is supportive, structured, and a welcome respite from the difficulties he may have faced at home or school. These centers can also help your teen learn to better reconnect with you and other family members.

Contact us today to learn more about helping your teen in crisis.

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