1. Sudden change in dress and appearance. Adolescence is a time for experimentation and learning about one’s likes and dislikes but it's important to pay attention to any sudden and drastic changes in dress/appearance.
2. Sudden change in friends. Teens can be fickle and harsh with one another so it is good to keep an eye on whom your teen is spending time with and check in with them about what the dynamics of the group are, especially when there is a sudden change.
3. Isolating. If your teen goes from social butterfly to wallflower, it is really important to take notice and ask questions. This includes noticing a shift in the amount of info your teen has been willing to give you. If he/she was once open about details that they are now keeping to themselves, it is important to take notice.
4. Sudden changes in mood. Teens are notoriously moody but if yours seems to be more cantankerous than is typical for him/her it may be time to take them on a walk or drive to find out what has been bothering them.
5. Sudden loss of interest in things previously enjoyed. While it is normal for teens to shed many of their childhood hobbies, they generally do so over time. If your kiddo appeared to suddenly shy from things they once enjoyed, it is important to learn more about what hobbies/tasks they are being replaced with.
6. Getting in trouble. Everyone makes mistakes but it is important to take note when your teen makes his/hers. Part of learning from our mistakes is thinking/talking about what choices we made that got us in that situation. After getting into trouble, it is important to help your teen explore whether he/she felt pressured to make poor choices b/c of a relationship.
7. You see marks, bruises, and scratches. Every bruise/scratch will not mean that your child is being abused, however it is important to take note especially if there seem to be more than are commonplace.
8. Sudden drop in grades. If your teen's grades take a sudden nosedive, it is time to have a conversation. There is a difference between a poor grade on a test and a sudden drop in overall grades. When your son/daughter's overall performance takes a sudden hit, there is likely more going on than meets the eye.
9. You see/overhear abusive behavior/language. This one may seem more obvious, but some teens are gifted at hiding and covering up what is going on with them. It is really important to both model and remind them that they deserve respect. If your child is afraid to stand up for themselves, offer to help them; provide support, advice, protection and resources to remove them from an unhealthy situation.
10. Listen to your intuition. You have been with your son/daughter their entire lives, you used to know what he/she needed based solely on the sound of their cry. If your gut says something is awry, listen. Your teen may not be ready to talk about it yet, but remind them that you are always there and that they have other trusted adults they can go to if needed.
Each of the above is a warning sign. It is important to make it a priority to have regular conversations with your teen about all of the things that are going on in their world. When any of the above warning signs appear, it is important to remember to stay calm. Panicking and getting upset will likely cause your teen to shut down and make it even more difficult for you to provide support. Do your best to relate to them and try to have a conversation instead of an interrogation.
Nicole Richardson, LPC, LMFTA
Here are some great resources –
Love is Respect
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Building a Healthy Relationship from the Start!
Your academic counselor and the student support counselors are also resources for you and your child.