What causes teenagers to make choices that could destroy their future, and why do they give in to peer pressure? Could your child be headed down a dangerous path? Heed the following warning signs:
#1 Teen warning sign: Isolates from the family.
If your once social child starts spending an inordinate amount of time away from home or locked in his or her room, Dr. Phil says this is a red flag. If your teen starts withdrawing from you or your spouse, there's a reason. As a parent, it's your responsibility to identify what's behind the change.
#2 Teen warning sign: An extreme shift in mood.
Is your child garrulous and friendly one moment, then taciturn and angry the next? Don't just chalk it up to growing pains. Dr. Phil says he or she may be hanging out with the wrong crowd, or experiencing changes — hormonally, neurologically or socially.
"One thing to do is not to let it just go," Dr. Phil warns, "because they get bigger, they get stronger, they get more rebellious. It's never too late."
#3 Teen warning sign: He or she starts abusing drugs or alcohol.
Teens often start experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol unbeknownst to their folks. If you suspect your child is using drugs, know the signs to look for.
#4 Teen warning sign: Family history of alcoholism and drug abuse.
"There clearly is a higher incidence with teens if they've had this history in their family," Dr. Phil says. "Maybe it's genetic; maybe it's not. Maybe it's just that the modeling is there."
#5 Teen warning sign: Taking risks.
Don't chalk your child's truancy, vandalism or petty theft up to "teens being teens."
"When your teen just seems to throw caution to the wind, not care about consequences — all around bad sign," Dr. Phil warns. "It indicates a number of things, one of which is that they don't have the ability to connect their choices with their consequences."
Other warning signs to look out for:
Declining grades, using street or drug language, a diminished interest in hobbies and a lack of appreciation for family values.
"You can't be in denial about what's going on. Don't kid yourself that these bad things just happen to other people's kids. Know what's going on with your child. Make sure they understand the consequences of their actions," Dr. Phil says. "Make sure they're living consistent with the values you hold so important."