Secrecy in Teenagers: When You Should Be Concerned

It’s the age-old teenager conundrum: Your once loving and chatty child has suddenly turned secretive; clamming up and giving you the cold shoulder. No parent likes the silent treatment, particularly if their child has been close to them before that.

However, before panicking, it’s always important to determine what kind of secrecy is going on. Pulling away is a natural teenage occurrence that happens frequently as teenagers grow and develop. It’s essential that parents understand how to transition these awkward years in a way that lets their child know that they still have their support and care. Teens need space, but their parents are still important.

Secrecy is not always a warning sign and could just be an angsty stage, but knowing when you should become concerned is another ball game altogether.

There are different levels of secrecy and silent treatment that your child may be projecting. Here are three different scenarios, how to handle them, and the signs to look out for that you may be dealing with something a lot more serious than teen angst:

Only Sharing with Friends

If you and your child used to be “besties” and they are suddenly shutting you out, but you know that she is chatting and laughing with her friends—there’s not too much to be concerned about. As hurtful as it may be as a parent, you’ve got to understand that your child is probably just becoming closer with her friends and being a teenager.

What to do

  • Avoid lecturing your child and telling them how hurt you are that they are choosing their friends over you.
  • Try to keep interactions as positive as possible.
  • Do activities that you know that they enjoy and that could be used as a bonding experience.
  • Have meals with them.
  • Don’t interrogate them. Rather open up and share something funny or interesting from your life and see if they come back to you with a snippet of theirs.
  • Interact with your teenager in an adult manner and ensure they know that you value their opinions.

Eye Rolling and One-Word Answers

Your once loving child has resorted to annoying eye rolls and one-word answers when they interact with you and seems to be completely normal with their friends. Is this cause for concern? Not really. As frustrating as it is when a teenager reacts like this, it’s normally well within their usual development. They are probably focusing more on their peers and pulling away as a natural form of independence. You still need to insist on respect and safety but don’t get too worried about this scenario.

What to do

  • Set limits that keep boundaries intact, while also strengthening your relationship.
  • Lecturing will most likely encourage them to create an even bigger distance between you, so try to avoid it when you can.
  • Teenagers are emotional beings, so always keep an eye out for distress under the behavior. If they start to become unkind rather than simply dismissive, it might be about something else. Remind them that you are there for them to talk to about anything that they are going through.

Total Withdrawal

Your child has completely withdrawn into themselves. They spend all their time alone and in their room, they keep odd hours, and always seem to be hiding things from you. They’ve also lost interest in their school, friends, and enjoyable activities.

If this is the case, then there is a serious cause for concern and it is not considered normal teenage behavior. This could be a sign that your child has gone through some sort of trauma. It could also point towards a serious mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more.

What to do

  • Give your child a platform to explain any hostility, anger, or hurt that they are experiencing.
  • If you suspect something like drug or alcohol abuse, ensure that they understand their room is not off-limits for an adult—you need to know what they are doing in all those hours alone.
  • Ensure that they know that you need specific answers when you ask a question. Don’t let them say they will be back “later”, or they are going “out”. Patience only goes so far and you need to know where your child is going for their own safety.
  • Seek professional help. Call your GP and explain the circumstances and they will know the right direction to point you in.

Get Your Child the Help that They Need

If you suspect or have figured out, that your child is going through more than the usual teenage angst phase, then the most crucial thing to do is get them the professional help that they need. A teen therapy center will be able to help your child with any behavioral and mental health problems that they are struggling with. Therapy will help your child identify healthier coping mechanisms to navigate the social awkwardness of being a teen, as well as picking up any potentially serious mental health issues.

If your child is suicidal or struggling with serious mental health problems, then you have to get them to a psychiatrist. They are a vital part of treating your teen’s medical issues and will be able to determine the severity of their symptoms through a psychiatric assessment. This will also determine the best cause of treatment for your child. Whether that’s continued psychiatric help and therapy or prescription medication if needed.

Get Help at OC Teen Center

At OC Teen Center, we specialize in treating teen mental health in a safe and nurturing environment. We have created a space to help adolescents and their families through a range of mental health services that will impact and disrupt their lives as little as possible.

If your teen is between the ages of 12 and 19, and struggling with mental health issues, then you are in the right hands with the OC Teen Center. We treat trauma, self-esteem and body image disorders, mental health, and a range of other developmental disorders that commonly occur in adolescents.

If you think behavioral issues or mental disorders are blocking your child’s path to a full and happy life, then it’s time to get them the help that they need. Get in touch with the OC Teen Center today and let us help you get your teen’s wellness journey started.

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