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Teen Behavior: What's Worrisome, What's Not

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
teen behavior

Does it seem as if you and your teenager live in different worlds? Many parents find it hard to interpret their teens’ behavior. Is your child just acting like a typical teen or does she or he need your help?

Typical Teen Behavior

“Every teenager is different and has a unique personality,” says Rainbow pediatrician Rina Lazebnik, MD. Dr. Lazebnik says that many adolescents:

  • Struggle with their identity – for instance, obsessing over their appearance
  • Feel awkward about their changing bodies
  • Switch between being overconfident and having poor self-esteem
  • Follow friends’ examples in clothing and activities
  • Find fault with their parents
  • Revert to childish behavior, such as slamming doors and crying

Signs That Raise Concern

These teen behaviors, Dr. Lazebnik says, should raise a red flag with parents:

  • Extreme change in school performance
  • Signs of alcohol or drug abuse, including frequent red-rimmed eyes or the presence of drug supplies
  • Inability to perform homework, household chores or other activities
  • Numerous complaints of illness – teen who frequently complain of headaches and other symptoms when there is no physical cause may be more likely to suffer from depression later in life
  • Frequent angry outbursts or extreme opposition to authority
  • Violent threats or behavior
  • Truancy, theft, fire-setting or vandalism
  • Fear of becoming obese even though body weight is normal
  • Preoccupation with anti-social music if accompanied by disturbing behavior changes
  • Signs of depression, including prolonged sad mood, changes in appetite and thoughts of death

If you notice any of these behaviors in your teen, seek professional help.

Preventing Harm

You can protect your child from some avoidable dangers.

“Teens with access to guns, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs at home are more likely to use illegal substances and commit violent acts than those without such access,” Dr. Lazebnik says.

Also, spend time with your teens. Research shows that youngsters with strong ties to their families engage in much less risky behavior than teens who feel unconnected to their families.

Related links

The transition to adulthood is filled with challenges. Each person’s journey is unique, and life doesn’t come with a clear road map. Sometimes things happen that make the transition to adulthood harder, and for young adults suffering from mental illness, the road can be even more difficult. Learn more about adolescent psychiatry services at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.