Newshub headline with Children's Wisconsin logo
Teen mental health red flags Children's Wisconsin

Is this healthy? Understanding your teen’s mental health signs

Raising a teenager is a big adventure! It is a time when your child is growing up fast, and their feelings can be all over the place. At Children’s Wisconsin, our pediatric mental health specialists are here to help you understand what is normal, what is great, and what might need a little extra attention when it comes to your teen's feelings and moods. To help you make sense of your teen’s behaviors, I would like to share some things to watch for as you continue to encourage their overall well-being.

What are some healthy emotional signs in teens?

  • Open communication: It is a positive sign when teens can chat about how they feel. Even if they do not tell their parents everything, having some open talks about general interests is a great start.

  • Bouncing back: Life has its ups and downs. If your teen can shake off tough times and keep going, that is a sign they are doing well.

  • Good friends and family ties: Getting along with friends and family is important. Teens thrive when they have positive social connections with peers and family members. 

  • Knowing themselves: It is great when teens understand their own feelings and what they are good at. Teens who understand their emotions and strengths are better equipped to navigate challenges as they grow. 

  • Balanced moods: It is normal for teens to have mood swings. It comes with the territory. However, if they seem okay most of the time that is a positive indicator of healthy emotions.

What are some “red flags” to watch for with your teen?

  • Feeling down a lot: If your teen is showing sudden changes in mood or prolonged periods of sadness or irritability, this may indicate that there is more going on underneath the surface.

  • Social withdrawal: If your teen stops hanging out with friends or doing things they used to like, that is an indicator something could be wrong.

  • Noticeable changes in sleeping or eating: If you notice your teen is sleeping or eating a lot more or less than before, it is something to watch.  

  • Suddenly not doing well at school: If grades start slipping or your teen does not seem to care about school, they might be having a hard time.

  • Taking unnecessary risks: If your teen is doing things that are dangerous or harmful such as using substances or self-harming, this is a sign that they are trying to find ways to cope with stress or challenging emotions. 

  • Physical symptoms: Sometimes, when teens are upset or overwhelmed, they might feel unwell (vague aches and pains, frequent stomach problems, chronic joint pain, etc.) even though they are physically healthy.  

  • Acting very different: Drastic changes in behavior, personality, or appearance should not be ignored and are a sign your teen may need more support.

Experiencing one or more of these “red flags” does not necessarily mean your child has a mental health disorder. However, if you believe your teen may be developing a problem, every Children’s Wisconsin office and clinic has mental and behavioral health providers on staff. On the other hand, if you believe the issue your teen is having needs help now, our mental health walk-in clinics in Milwaukee and Kenosha can see them right away, with no appointment or referral necessary. No issue is too big or too small. 

Your love and support mean the world to your teen, even if they do not always show it. By talking with them, being there for them, and keeping an eye out for these signs, you are helping them grow into a happy, healthy adult. Remember, it is okay to ask for help if you or your teen need it. We are all in this together!