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Teen Behavior: What to Deal With, What Can Wait

by Jane Wangersky | April 24th, 2015 | Behavior, Teens

teen boy (2) (400x400)While trying to decide what teen behavior issue to focus on this time, I realized that in my mind I was dividing them into issues that really need attention — to the point where they’re important enough to get an article — and others that parents may worry over, but that really can be allowed to slide, at least for awhile. So I decided to write about that divide, instead of zooming in on any of the individual behaviors. Of course, this is just my opinion, YMMV, but I’ve had a lot of experience raising teens. And this list is not meant to be exhaustive.

Teen behaviors that need attention right away

Symptoms of mental illness. These can be hard to tell from typical teen moodiness. This site helps you tell the difference; if it’s real mental illness, even mild, it needs to be treated as soon as possible or it’ll interfere with everything in your teen’s life.

Anything illegal. If you don’t deal with it, the police may well — anything from buying cigarettes to driving without a license to illegal drugs. Which brings us to . . .

Substance abuse. Legal or not, addiction won’t go away on its own.

Violence. Even getting into a fight at school should be taken seriously.

Personal hygiene. If this is not good, it’s holding your teen back right now.

Teen behaviors you can relax a little on

Unhealthy eating. This one is borderline. You can’t really stop them from buying junk food with their own money, but you don’t have to buy it for them. Keep healthy food around for them.

Messy room. Most people eventually learn to value a clean, fairly orderly home — though it may take a warning from a landlord or fire inspector. Maybe it’s just not your teen’s time for it yet.

Academics. Eventually, all that will matter is that your teen graduated. If they ask you for help with schoolwork, be there for them. If they let themselves fail, they’ll learn from that experience. Never mind “what people will say” if your teen has no desire to go to college. In time, they’ll realize they don’t want to work for minimum wage all their lives and seek out some training for a better career.

Not getting along with one or both parents. The parent-child bond is capable of making a comeback from the brink of hell. Things will look very different when your teen is a little more mature — don’t alienate him before that happens.

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