Dealing with an adolescent can be a like riding a rollercoaster. They are up one minute and down the next. That's pretty normal, but some teenagers have deeper problems that demonstrate themselves through anger, violence, depression, anxiety and a whole host of other symptoms.

As a first step for concerned parents who are experiencing such difficulties with their teenager, our Troubled Teen Assessment Tool may be helpful. It is a simple evaluation of where the child is and whether or not he or she may need help beyond what most parents can provide. It is based on our experience with counseling and mentoring thousands of struggling teenagers over the years.

If you feel that your teen is on an unhealthy downward spiral, you can take this assessment. Just rank the symptoms you are experiencing, on a scale from 0 to 5 depending on their severity. And ask other family members to do the same, then compare notes. A low score means you may be experiencing somewhat normal adolescent behavior from your teenagers. A high score means that you may need some professional help..


The Teen Behavior Assessment — Our Teenager's Behavior Is Causing Family Turmoil

Does your stress meter go up whenever your teen walks into the room? Does he or she refuse to abide by anything you say or request, leading to a constant high level of stress and conflict in the home as a direct result?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

Our Teen's Motivation Has Changed

Is your child displaying markedly different motivation from what has been normal? For instance: changed sleep habits, extreme forgetfulness, over aggression and explosiveness or depression and an uncaring attitude, high anxiety or deep sadness, slipping grades, hating what they once loved and loving what they once hated, or spending too much time in isolation and alone?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

Our Teenager Is Increasingly Angry and Disrespectful

Has your child become increasingly angry, disrespectful, dishonest, or disobedient? Does he or she openly display rebellion, no longer hide angry feelings or care about the consequences or bad behavior? Is your teen living only for the moment and destroying his or her future?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

Our Teen Is Rebellious and Defiant

Is your teen profoundly rebelling against your household rules, far more than just not liking them? This may appear in passive aggressiveness or open defiance that is unusually excessive for your child.

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never....Often....Always

Our Teenager Is Threatening

Are there veiled or outright threats of self-harm or even suicide? Is your teen involved in eating disorders, cutting or other self-destructive activities or excessive risk-taking? Or, is your teen involved in dangerous drug use or blatant sexual promiscuity? Has your teenager seemingly lost his or her conscience or moral compass?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never....Often....Always

Our Teenager Mistreats Others or Other Things

Are things of value broken or lost by your teen with a uncaring attitude about it? Have you had to hide your wallet, your keys, and anything having to do with money or valuables out of fear your teen may take them? Does your teenager treat people, pets, or belongings in a threatening or out of control manner? Do you have to hide or disconnect the internet, telephone, television in order to stop your teen from blatantly and repeatedly using them inappropriately and against your household rules?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

Selfish or Self-Centered Thinking

Does your show blatant disregard for other family members' time, feelings, schedule, or possessions? Is manipulation or threats used as a tool to get what he or she wants? Does your child think the world revolves around them and their needs and wants?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

Our Teen No Longer Participates with the Family

Does your child display a growing hatred for the family and refuse to participate or do anything with the family? Is there constant conflict in your family, sparked off by your teenager?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often..........Always

Extreme Peer-Dependence

Are your teenager's peers the center of his or her life? Do you find it difficult or impossible to keep your child away from other teenagers who are obviously leading a lifestyle counter to your beliefs? Do you see your child mimicking their attitudes and taking on their appearance, their talk, and their dangerous or illegal activities? Does your teen stay up most of the night talking on the phone to friends, or perhaps sneak out or run away to be with them?

0----1----2----3----4----5 (circle)
Never.........Often.........Always

_____________________________________________

TOTAL SCORE: ______

SCORING: A score of 30 or more means you should consider securing professional counseling help for your teenager.
__________________________________________________

Most kids handle adolescence without a problem, but for others it is a very stressful and confusing time, especially if other factors like abuse or loss have been a part of the child's life. If a teen is beginning to spin out of control, it is important for parents to intervene sooner, when they first recognize a problem has developed. It is easier to blow out a match than it is to put out a forest fire, right? So, don't wait for things to spin completely out of control and turn into a forest fire.

There is a time in the life of some troubled teens when a parent needs to send the message, "Honey, we're not going to live like this anymore." If things get too much out of control, a live-in therapeutic program can provide a child with the help he or she needs over an extended period of time. It can give the entire family time to heal and learn how to better relate to each other.

That's why we developed Heartlight (see it at www.heartlightministries.org). We help teens and their families work through their struggles and get on the other side of them. We also provide books and resources and seminars for parents of teenagers.

To read Mark's weekly blogs, visit www.markgregston.com. The Heartlight Ministries website can be visited at www.heartlightministries.org.