If your son has entered his teens (ages 13-19 years), it’s quite normal that he might be displaying significant changes in behavior, such as sharp drops and highs in moods, emotional detachment, increased usage of electronic devices, a general disregard for rules… and as a parent, all this must be quite worrisome. At this juncture, you have to ask yourself, “Is this normal?”
Fortunately, most of these behavioural changes are a part of hitting puberty, and are a part of coping mechanisms used by teens; but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. Most of these changes are a result of hormonal and bodily changes in teens, and they find it hard to deal with, which is why they often resort to rebelling, detachment and moodiness.
It is important for parents to know about these changes and how they should deal with them sensitively. If your child’s behavior seems abnormal, it is also essential that you know whether the changed behavioural traits could be indicative of mental illness, or if he needs psychiatric help.
Teenage Boy Issues: 11 Facts Every Parent Should Know
Here are a few changes your son might be facing if he’s going through his teens.
Sexual Activity, Drug and Alcohol Use
This is a common problem in teens these days. If you find out that your 16 or 17 year old is sexually active, do not be alarmed. Boys, especially, get quite secretive about issues like this, so be careful in your approach to this problem. If your son is already sexually active, it would be a good idea to teach him about protected sex and to be careful in the choice of sexual partners, rather than abstinence.
Teenage is the “gang” age, and boys like to mingle with other groups and increase their social activity. Association with the wrong kind of crowds and with older boys is a way in which they might be induced into drug or alcohol use. It normally starts just as a case of “let me try this”, but if left unchecked, could lead them to develop serious addictions later. You must be careful to see the kind of friends your son is hanging out with, while allowing him enough freedom. Substance abuse can lead to a lot of health issues later in life, both physical and mental. If you see your son engaging in sexual activities, drug or alcohol abuse, it is essential that you sit down and talk to him in a manner that he will respond to. Always try to understand your son’s point of view, because being too rigid or strict will lead him to shut you off. At the same time, do not make it seem like you are approving of the wrong lifestyle choices he is making. Deal with these issues maturely, and maintain a balance. Educate your son to make the right choices and decisions.
Mood Swings are a common teenage problem, and while they do not appear that harmful on the surface, they could be indicators of mental illnesses in your child, such as depression. If your child is emotionally volatile and the slightest of things seem to set him off, you need to be very careful around him. Mood swings are common, but the severity of them indicates if it is just teenage hormones or something more concerning, such as depression. If your son seems to be struggling with something that is affecting his mood constantly, the best way to help him cope is to talk to him, and let him know that you are there to help if he needs your guidance. At the same time, let him have his own space to deal with problems, and do not smother him with constant attention.
One of the biggest mistakes you could make as a parent is make light of what your child is dealing with. Granted, as an adult, what your son is going through might seem trivial and not worthy of much attention, but it is a big deal to your child, and you have to be considerate of that. Not doing so might make your child feel alienated from you and he will feel alone and detached.
Shows of aggression
Your son might be showing signs of aggression a lot more often. This is more common in boys than girls, but is completely normal during the teens. The basic thing to know about teenage is that teens are dealing with increased hormonal activity, which makes them a little emotionally unstable, which can lead to exaggerated shows of emotions such as rebelling, aggression and defiance.
If your child is showings increased levels of aggression, the best way to deal with it is by not engaging his aggression. If he is arguing with you, maintain your composure, and show him that you are listening, and he is understood. Teens often feel alienated and misunderstood, which makes them act aggressively, because it leads them to believe that at some level, everyone is against them. Be calm and listen to your child. If he is shouting, NEVER shout back at him. He might feel threatened or backed into a corner, which will make him act even more aggressively. Be calm and talk it out with your son, and make him see that aggression or violence is never the answer to life’s problems.
Increased association with social media and the Internet
Teens need more time with friends at this age, and therefore you might see their usage of mobile phones and social media rising sharply. 93% of teens who have their own mobile phone used it to log in to their social media accounts every day.
Social media is necessary, and is a virtually indispensable part of everyone’s lives these days, but it is necessary that your child doesn’t develop an addiction to it. You could keep tabs on what your child has been looking up on your computer, and impose restrictions against too much texting or calling without reason. Do not cut off contact with the outer world completely by not giving your son a phone, but make sure that he uses it in a way that won’t lead to an unhealthy addiction to it. Keeping tabs and imposing restrictions will work out well for you, but the best way of ensuring your child has a healthy relationship with mobile devices is if he makes the choice to be moderate in usage by himself. Make sure that your child is aware of the problems associated with over-usage of electronics, and is responsible about his interaction with the same.
Lying or being secretive
Boys aren’t as emotionally mature as girls, and therefore need more time to come in terms with what they might be feeling or going through. This includes mental, emotional and bodily changes- boys normally avoid discussing those topics even if they are facing problems. Your son might be spending a lot of time away from you, outside with friends or inside his room with his door locked. Do not panic, they need this time to figure things out for themselves. Most boys usually realize that the best way to deal with such problems is to talk with parents and ask for guidance, so you have to be ready what your son comes to you with problems. Create an atmosphere that is conducive for discussion of a lot of different kinds of issues, such as feelings, and lifestyle changes, sex, etc. Make sure they feel secure enough to discuss what they want with you. Be honest with them, share you experiences with them and avoid being judgmental. Show them that you trust that they will make the right choices.
Teens are rebellious by nature. They crave independence and want to do their “own thing”, therefore do not have much respect or regard for rules, especially those of a restrictive nature. Sometimes your child will break rules just for the thrill of it, just to see how far they can go without getting into trouble. If your son is intent on breaking rules, refusing to do simple tasks assigned to him, or stays out later than he is allowed to, do not shout at him ground him or act like a tyrant in any way. This will make him more stubborn.
Rather, talk to him about setting rules, and let him know that the rules are there for his own good. When he breaks rules, enforce punishments no matter what. Even better, involve him in setting the punishments for broke rules so that he knows what he’s risking when he tries to break rules next. Being steadfast in your enforcement will lead to him taking you seriously and will make him more disciplined. As he grows mature, he will himself understand the importance of rules.
Lack of Communication
Your son probably doesn’t share very much with you, not as much as he used to. Teens feel more comfortable sharing things with friends than they do with adults, out of apprehension over being misunderstood or judged. Do not force your child to share things with you; this will only encourage him to fabricate stories. Give him his space, but establish a connection good enough that he shares whatever is major and important in his life. This is the time your child is developing his own identity and learning to be a separate human, don’t force him to conform to your beliefs, let him be his own person.
Change in appearance
Hormonal and developmental changes cause your child to change drastically in appearance at this time. Developing sexual preferences can also make them dress and act in a particular way. If your child insists on getting a particular kind of haircut or dress in a particular fashion, it could very well be that he is getting in touch with his sexual side and wants to express himself in a particular way.
Body changes and eating disorders are closely connected; if your child isn’t eating enough or binge- eating followed by vomiting everything, he could have possibly developed anorexia or bulimia. Keep an eye on his eating habits and make sure he’s eating healthy. A rapidly growing teen needs all the nutrients he can get.
Spending more time with peer group
At this age, teens prefer spending more time with friends than with parents or elders. Association with peer group is healthy for your child, unless they are a bad influence on him. Bad influence doesn’t only mean bringing him in contact with alcohol, drugs or other things that might be detrimental to him; it also means pressuring him into doing things he might not like, or into adopting dressing styles and mannerisms that he wouldn’t like. If your son is part of such a group, bring it to his notice without blaming him, and help him cut those friends out of his life. Make sure he is mature enough to choose the right kind of friends. At the same time, if you don’t approve your child’s friends based on how they dress or carry themselves; keep in mind that there might be more to them than just that. Give them a chance first.
Inability to make up their mind
Teens generally tend to be unable to make up their minds about anything immediately, and their decisions fluctuate from one extreme to the other. Your child might be having trouble making decisions about something. In a situation like this, what you should do is help them think the whole thing through, and weigh their options. Do not offer to make their choices for them or even hint at what you think is correct. Let them choose for themselves.
Typical Teenage Boy Behavior Problems
When compared to girls, teenage boys are more difficult to deal with. Boys are not as emotionally developed as girls, which makes it tricky for them to deal with emotions and changes, in general. As a result, they tend to repress their feelings and not talk about them. In fact, a lot of teenage boys look at discussing their emotions as a sign of weakness.
Teen boys tend to start drugs and drinking earlier than girls, which is why parents need to be extra cautious and alert. Unruliness is another characteristic that teenage boys have, which draws them to rushing and indulging in risky activities.