To the parents: What happened to that great kid of yours?

Does it seem that your child has been replaced by this creature who rolls their eyes at you, seems annoyed with you, has a messy room, doesn't want to really be around you or the family any more, listens to strange music and only wants to hang out with friends?

Or maybe you're having even more serious issues with your teen:

So, do you have a normal teenager engaged in some routine rebellion (which, nevertheless, you may need some help dealing with)? Or do you have a teenager with some serious issues that really need to be addressed?

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what's really going on. (It can be both.) The best way to determine this is probably to have a short conversation on the phone with a therapist who can help you get a sense of things.

Depending on circumstances, if you decide on therapy, you may choose to allow your teenager to be the first to attend a counseling session, or you might want to have the first session be with just the parents, or with all of you. I tend to be flexible with this and recommend what I feel would be most therapeutically helpful. From there, we can focus on developing win/win solutions that work for the teen and the whole family. We can figure out if it's best for your teenager to have individual therapy or if family therapy might be better.

It is important that you, as parents, feel comfortable with me if we decide on individual counseling for your child. Just as important – your teen needs to feel comfortable with me.

To the teenager: If you are the one seeking counseling for yourself, good for you. You probably realize you have some issues you want to work on and that therapy can help you. Or, maybe you're not so keen on counseling. You may think that it's your parents who need therapy. That may be. If your parents are "making" you go to counseling, here's my suggestion. Come one time for an individual session. It is private and confidential. Check it out. It may be different than what you expect. You might even find it interesting.

"Parents are trained in conflict through their experiences in the family they grew up in. If it was a safe and constructive model (calm discussion leading to reasonable resolution), they might want to continue it with their adolescent; if it was an unsafe and destructive model (explosive attacks leading to hurt feelings), they might want to change it. . . ."

-- CARL PICKHARDT, Ph.D.