When your teen was a toddler, you would have likely done almost anything to get just a few minutes to yourself. As the teen years approach, you may start to notice that your once very clingy little one is now spending less time around you and other members of the family. You may now have a teenager that seems to spend more time hiding away in their room, perhaps only emerging to grab food or nod in your direction.
What could be going on? You may wonder if they are doing okay or if something is going on that you need to be concerned about. Out of all of the changes that adolescence brings with it, having your teen hide away may have been the one that you didn’t expect. After all, we tend to expect angst, attitude, moodiness, and even staying out past curfew.
Why is your teen hiding, and how do you approach it?
Withdrawing and solitude is normal for teens
You might not know that it is considered perfectly normal for your teen to seek out time alone. This often comes with an increasing desire for privacy. This can go against the grain of parenting when we live in a world where it’s never been more important to monitor what our teens are getting up to.
Seeking solitude is too often considered to be a bad thing for teens, particularly for troubled teens. Still, there is room for concern when it comes to teens who may display the signs of depression or self-harming behavior. Studies have shown that teens who are predisposed to these types of mental illnesses and behaviors are at an increased risk of behavior acceleration if they seek out solitude more than what is normal.
For your teen, there may be nothing to worry about. Solitude can be a good thing for teenagers who are learning more about themselves. Learning to spend time alone can be a developmental process, as it can offer an overwhelmed teenager time alone to reset and refresh themselves mentally.
We often forget that teens today have busy lives, increasing pressure from school, activities, and peers. When they retreat to their room of their own accord, they are allowed to rest, relax, refocus, and even work on creative expressions that mean a lot to them.
When should solitude be a concern?
Studies have shown that younger people are at an increased risk for depression and resulting feelings of loneliness. How can you determine whether your teen is simply withdrawing in a developmentally healthy way or if there is something more serious going on?
How has your teen been acting, behaving, and expressing themselves? If your troubled teen struggles with self-esteem concerns and seems to have lost confidence in themselves, this could be a tell-tale sign that something is amiss. Combine this uncharacteristic behavior like anger, violence, or rudeness, and you may need to address a mental health concern in your teen.
Without invading too much of their much-needed privacy, there are some signs that you can look for:
- Spending less time with friends or dropping friends completely without reason.
- Sudden weight loss or any changes in eating habits.
- Grade changes at school, with or without disciplinary concerns at school.
- Risky behavior such as smoking or drinking, and even drug use.
- Emotional changes, with a particular focus on sadness and increased crying.
It can be tempting to see what they are up to on their phone or tablet, and it can be tempting to get on their social media accounts and read their messages between friends. While this can help determine whether you have a troubled teen, it can prove to be a huge break in trust with your child.
What can you do?
If you have concerns that your teen is troubled, it can be confusing to navigate this new stage. You may even start to long for those challenging toddler tantrums again. The good news is that you have several options available to you to help reach your teen even through the wall of solitude that they have built up around themselves.
- Establish a safe conversational space for your troubled teen. Reassure them that conversations with you are held in a non-judgmental space. Gentle conversations that allow your teen to speak honestly can make a world of difference. You might even find that getting out of the house for a drive or a walk can provide that conversational space needed.
- Take the conversation lead. Don’t wait for your teen to reach out to you. While some may come to you with open conversations without hesitation, some may respond better to a prompt from a parent.
- Keep your wits about you in a relaxed and calm way. It can be hard to hear that your teen is unhappy or is struggling. However, it is so important that you make every effort to remain calm and collected in the face of what you hear from them. You are their parent and their source of strength.
- Listen, completely. Conversations are a two-way street, and it’s important that your teen feels that they are being heard.
- Ask how you can best offer support. Your troubled teen may know what they need to feel better. Ask, listen, and take action if it is possible to.
Parenting can be difficult, and no one can dispute that. When you have a troubled teen, regardless of the troubles that they are struggling with, it can feel almost impossible to find the right solution or direction.
There are several resources that you can turn to. One option is to consider a residential treatment center for your troubled teen. At Help Your Teen Now, we can offer guidance to the right type of residential treatment center to meet the needs of your family.
A residential treatment center can offer counseling and other valuable treatments from licensed mental health professionals. Your teen will learn important coping skills and other valuable mental wellness skills that will serve them well. The environment is safe, structured, and considers the needs of the individual every step of the way.
Family counseling and counseling to help you work through these difficult seasons can prove to be hugely beneficial. Lean on mental health professionals to help you and your troubled teen find your way back to mental wellness and a happier sense of normalcy.