The teenage years are marked by trying on independence through experimentation. Typical teen behavior includes many things that seem strange to parents. Dyed hair, odd piercings, strange music and even new friends are all part of growing up for some teens. And some teenagers also choose this period in life as a time to experiment with alcohol and drugs, and sometimes sex. Also, the hormonal changes in a teenager’s body can produce moodiness. A teen’s brain is still developing, so some parts of the brain that house logical thinking and memory are not fully formed and can lead to lapses of judgment and sometimes risky behavior. Additionally, a desire for independence and becoming one’s own person can lead teenagers to distance themselves from their families.
Some typical teen behaviors
It is important to understand that some teenage behaviors that seem bizarre to parents are a normal part of teen life. Here are some normal teenage behaviors:
Changing one’s appearance. Styles come and go, and keeping up with trends is important for teenagers. Dyed hair and a body piercing or two is stylish. Watch to make sure that changes are not terribly radical, however (such as excessive piercings), and that they are not accompanied by other disturbances of regular activities. For teenage girls, especially, appearance becomes important. They want to be attractive and trendy. However, it is important for obsession with weight and changes in eating habits that result in dramatic weight loss.
Some withdrawal from family life. Typical teen behavior includes a focus on one’s friends and a desire to be independent of the family, to be one’s “own person.” Your teen will not talk to you as often as he or she used to, and he or she may pull away, or not want to be seen in public with you. However, making sure that your teenager understands that he or she is expected at certain family functions can be helpful. It is when your teen becomes defensive and aggressively argumentative that signs of trouble may be brewing.
Increased arguments. Your teen will quarrel with you more. There will be arguments and defiance. However, with typical teen behavior, these arguments are not constant, nor do they become violent or result in long-standing sullenness or resentment. Typical teen behavior will include accusations that you do not love him or her, that you are unfair, that all his or her friends get to do something, or that he or she hates you. Constant escalation, increasing defiance and defensiveness, violence, or ever-increasing frequency in arguments are signs of a troubled teen.
Emotional ups and downs. Typical teenage behavior comes with emotional ups and downs, as well as intervals of moodiness. Your teen may complain of having no friends one day, or for a couple of days, and then go out on the weekend with friends and be fine for a couple of weeks before the next low. This is normal. The teen years are filled with uncertainty and magnified emotional responses. Watch for anxiety and sadness that does not seem to go away, or a pattern of never going out with friends. This could indicate a real mental or emotional health problem.
Experimentation with drugs and alcohol. It is important to realize that your teenager will likely experiment with drugs and alcohol. Most teens leave it at a few drinks socially, or a few puffs of marijuana. If you notice, however, a significant drop in school performance, dramatic behavioral changes and an obsession with money (or missing valuables from around the house), it could indicate that your teenager has an alcohol or drug dependency. A teenage drug or alcohol dependency should be addressed immediately.