How to Identify At-Risk Youth

group of teenagers communicate in schoolyard

This may seem to be a simple situation. Your teen son or daughter is skipping school, failing in their grades, stealing money from your purse, fighting with family and friends and/or experimenting with drugs and drinking to excess.Any parent could not help but see these signs and know that their child was at-risk.

But as any parent who has had trouble with their teenager will tell you, sometimes the symptoms are not on public view. Teens can be extremely clever at hiding their behavior and even a caring parent can be the last to know their child is in trouble.

So what can a parent do to discover if their teen is at-risk?

  1. Communicate. It seems a silly thing to suggest but there is communicating with a teen and there is really communicating with a teen. Let’s face it, you as the parent haven’t been a teen for what? Twenty years? Thirty? More than thirty years? What you got up to as a teenager and what kids do today are poles apart. You need to seriously make time to talk with your child. Make sure you spend a large part of that regular communication listening. Giving lectures may not help and in fact may make a bad situation worse. You want your teen to respect you and to see that you genuinely care. A teen in trouble who comes to their parent for help stands a much better chance of overcoming their problem. Communicate and keep on communicating.
  2. Relate to their teachers. Don’t be a stranger to your kid’s school. You don’t want to embarrass your child by dropping in unannounced but schools are happy to help concerned parents. Find out how your child is going at school. If they are skipping classes or not working hard, there may well be a reason. You need to know this situation and take action before things get out of hand. Keep an unobtrusive eye on your child at school.
  3. Relate to your child’s friends. Often the company a teen keeps determines their lifestyle. Get to know the friends and the families of these friends. A caring parent on your side will better help you keep tabs on the activities your child gets involved in. It’s not snooping, it’s a concerned parent wanting the best for their child.
  4. Take an interest. If your teen is in a sporting team, a drama club or a church choir, make a genuine attempt to be part of the program. It might mean attending performances or giving help with transport. But by being a part of your teen’s life, you will know their dedication, their interest and their behavior. It is their actions which can help you identify a problem for an at-risk youth. A lack of enthusiasm for their chosen activity, an unwillingness to attend, dropping out and wanting to choose a less healthy pastime can all be signs to help you identify an underlying problem.

As you can see, parenting a teen can be tricky. But nothing worthwhile is achieved without some hard work and after all, what is more worthwhile than your child being happy and healthy?

Here are additional resources you might be interested in:

Troubled Youth – Is Your Teen at Risk?

At Risk Behavior or Psychological Problem?

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