Teenagers, yeah. We all know the jokes. Suddenly your pleasant communicative child turns into a grunting, disagreeable teen who spends most of their time sleeping and eating. Parents roll their eyes and groan in solidarity at having a young adult in the house.
And it’s true. Puberty seems to steal your sweet son or daughter one night and replace them with a creature you don’t quite recognise.
In this house, all at once, I found myself dealing with mood swings, insatiable appetites and a new-found interest in grooming. At first I was bewildered, then the penny dropped. Ah, it’s that teenage thing.
With so many dramatic changes happening in such a short time-scale, how can you tell what’s normal and what’s something to worry about?
It’s understandable that as your child makes the huge transition to becoming an adult things won’t always go smoothly, but here are some warning signs to be aware of.
A change in academic performance. If this is unexpected it may signify that your child is struggling to cope with more than just the curriculum, particularly if it’s across several subjects.
A change in their weight. If they have either lost or gained a significant amount this may suggest an underlying shift in their habits and behaviour.
How do they look? If their appearance has altered for the worse or perhaps they’re hiding under long sleeves and baggy clothes it might be worth asking why.
Have they become isolated? All teenagers like to spend time on their own in their rooms, but if it appears they are cutting themselves off – especially from the family – have a closer look. There may be a reason why they’re avoiding communicating.
Who are their friends? Of course no teenager wants mum or dad breathing down their necks, but it’s good to have a fair idea who their friends are and what they’re up to. Has their peer group changed or are they a bit vague about who they’re hanging out with?
Do their moods not swing back? Ups and downs are to be expected, but prolonged periods of sadness or bouts of violent temper might give cause for concern.
Secrets and lies. Has your youngster become deceitful and secretive? If you think they are feeding you a line or they seem reluctant to open up, ask yourself why.
Something feels wrong. Even though they are transforming Hulk-like into a teenager, they are still your child at heart and you know them best. If your instinct is yelling at you then listen to it, regardless of what others – including your son or daughter – are saying to you.
It’s all very well to be aware that something’s amiss, but doing something about it is not always easy. Try, if possible, to keep lines of communication open with your teenager – however angry they may be making you. Talk to others they deal with, such as guidance teachers or sports coaches. Maybe another family member might have more success. Their GP can also offer advice.
We’re still in the thick of the teenage years with many more ahead, but friends with older children assure me that it does pass and things get better again. That’s something to look forward to.