Keep a close eye on changes in your teenager’s personality

Question:
Our daughter used to be open, obedient, and pleasant but her personality has changed significantly since she hit the teen years. She’s sullen, moody, and secretive about insignificant things. What do you suggest we do?

Answer:
When kids enter the teen years, they often begin pulling away from their parents while simultaneously connecting and identifying more closely with their peers. This process is usually accompanied by a quest for new ways to express their individuality and assert their personal preferences. Psychologists call this separation and individuation. Not only is it completely normal, but it’s also an important stage in every kid’s journey from childhood to maturity.

Unfortunately, this process can sometimes involve acts of disobedience and defiance, especially if mom and dad have a parenting style that tends to be relatively strict and authoritarian. In situations of this nature, we advise parents to consider the words of a youth expert Josh McDowell: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Although the situation can be distressing for the rest of the family, it isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.

Without more detailed information it’s difficult to know exactly what to say about the changes you’ve observed in your daughter’s attitude and behavior. Is her secretiveness simply an expression of a desire to maintain privacy and establish her own identity, or is she actually telling lies and practicing deception? Is her moodiness merely an aspect of normal adolescent withdrawal, or do you have reason to believe that she may be slipping into depression?

As you probably know, the teenage years can be emotionally turbulent, what with physical changes, hormonal changes, and the shifting demands of peer pressure. Research indicates that a significant percentage of young people will experience clinical depression at some point during this phase of their growth and development. If you fear your daughter may fall into this category, we encourage you to talk with your family physician or a trained psychologist.

If you and your spouse need additional support during these times, Focus on the Family Singapore provides both individual and family counseling services. More information can be found at www.family.org.sg/counseling.

In the meantime, you may find it helpful to read Dr. John Townsend’s Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No.

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Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family. Used with permission from Focus on the Family Singapore (www.family.org.sg), a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programmes, trusted resources and family counselling.

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