6 Ways to Tell if Your Teen is in Bad Company

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It’s not news that teenagers can demonstrate unpredictable, even erratic behavior in the search for their identity and the quest for independence. The sweet darling of yesteryear is now slamming the door in your face even after the smallest argument or rolling their eyes at everything you say. When is this normal, and when isn’t it? Here are six ways to tell your teen is experiencing more than simply hormonal changes.  

1. Persistent Negative States 

Hormonal changes frequently cause teenagers to demonstrate irritability and experience mood swings. However, anxiety, persistent sadness, rapid personality changes, and sleep issues can indicate emotional health problems or bullying at school or elsewhere. Risky behavior to watch out for includes drug use, drinking, violence, tardiness, or petty theft. Negative behavior that repeats itself is always a cause for concern.  

2. Marked Drop in School Performance  

It starts with frequent white lies about minor things, like not doing their homework. Your son hides his homework diary and lies that he can’t find it. However, something doesn’t feel right. For one, he won’t look you in the eyes. When you ask him to explain himself, they’ll stutter,  pause a lot, or overload you with irrelevant information. He might have fallen in with the wrong crowd, and his new “friends” are telling him to be brave in the “face of punishment.”  

The next stage is usually a drop in school performance. This is a big red flag. The wrong company can have a very adverse effect on learning. Your child will start to focus on things outside school due to peer pressure, and their grades simply stop being a priority.  

The typical parent will move to punish their child, but that might not be the best approach. Try talking to them first. Try to find out if they have new friends. This is easier to do than you may think – look for any new people on their social media and run a background check on them. To do that, note their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and the nature of their posts. That should give you an idea of what they’re like and help you see if they have been (and are) a bad influence.  

3. Foul Language 

Name-calling and swearing are typical of a bad social influence. Teens become defiant, ready to argue, deliberately hurting anyone around them who’s more sensitive and vulnerable. They pick fights, and when you tell them to do something, they deliberately disobey it. On the other hand, if they were always defiant, it just means nothing has changed. 

4. Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

Wanting to experiment with alcohol and drugs is a normal inclination in adolescence. To make sure this doesn’t go in a very bad direction, talk to your child about it, frankly and openly. Don’t be too accepting of it, but don’t be completely dismissive and draconian either.  

There may be an issue with substance abuse if drug or alcohol use has become habitual, particularly when your child is also having problems at home or at school.  

5. Keeping Secrets 

Keeping things from you is a red flag as well, even if it’s something small. It might mean they are becoming secretive, and by letting it slide, you’re letting them nurture adverse behavior. Your teen has found someone new to confide in, which might be leading them down the wrong path.  

This is not the only personality change you should be aware of. Were they outgoing but are now withdrawn? They might be trying to conceal newly acquired negative behavior or are suffering from low self-esteem or depression.  

6. They Don’t Want You to Meet Their Friends  

The most telltale sign of all: they tell you they have a new friend or friends but won’t let you meet them. They probably know you won’t approve. Feeling accepted and having a sense of belonging is a major need in adolescence. That’s why teens are so worried about how they’re perceived. It’s very hard for parents to exert influence once their teen has found a group of kids who accept them or who they feel accept them.   

How to Cope With bad company  

You can’t expect to be able to pick their friends. They will react negatively to any criticism of their friends. They’ll tell you that you just don’t understand or that only their friends understand them. The more you attack their friends, the stronger they’ll bond with them. Direct attacks aren’t going to help you. It’s usually the case that teens will purposefully hang out with people their parents don’t like.  

Like your child’s safety and protection are your goals as a parent, being with people who like them is your child’s goal. Developmentally, teens are at a place in their life where they will do anything it takes to defend the crowd they hang out with. No successful conversation will start with “Your friends are bad/obnoxious/worthless.” They might suspect you’re right, but they’ll never admit it.  

Teenagers will naturally be inclined to oppose their parents in their quest to find out who they are. It’s the typical developmental tendency. As children, they were part of your world. They are now breaking out of it. By knowing just one thing, one attitude, one approach to life, they are missing out on exploring new things, new attitudes, new approaches, and as teens, they don’t want to.  

In the best case, they will lose interest in this new company they’re in. Either way, criticizing their friends is like criticizing anything else about them – they will react with resistance. 

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