- Friends are of primary importance. Teens generally spend more time with friends than with family. “Best” friends may change, but generally the teen has a core group of friends.
- Peer issues, such as teasing, bullying or rejection are common.
- Teens can take on more responsibility at home and require less parenting for routine tasks.
- Interest in sexuality increases.
- Teens may be self-conscious, worrying what others think about them.
- The risk of drinking or other substance abuse increases.
- The risk of sexual activity increases.
- Teens may experience frequent mood swings and be irritable or moody.
- Teens need more privacy and independence.
- The physical relationship between parents and teens changes. Teens may be less likely to hug or show affection.
- Advanced reasoning, logic and abstract thinking skills develop. These can lead to arguments about right and wrong.
- Height and weight can increase dramatically. Teens may be concerned because they are not physically developing at the same rate as their peers.
- With the onset of puberty comes the appearance of secondary sex characteristics, including:
- pubic hair
- menarche (first menstrual period)
- penis growth
- voice changes (for boys)
- underarm hair
- facial hair growth (for boys)
- beginning of acne
Common post-deployment reactions
- The teen may have specific worries about the war and about a parent being re-deployed.
- The teen’s behavior around the returning parent may change:
- He/she may be withdrawn or slow to warm
- He/she may be overly clingy.
- He/she may be critical, negative or angry.
- The teen’s behavior around the parent who remained home during the deployment may change:
- He/she may be dismissive.
- He/she may be overly clingy.
- The teen may be angry with the returning parent for leaving or with the remaining parent for choices made during the deployment.
- Rebellion and challenges to parental authority may occur.
- Mood swings or irritability may be observed, as well as mild to moderate changes in behavior including:
- Increased activity levels
- Decreased concentration and/or attention
- Attempts to withdraw from the family
- Increased attention-seeking behavior
Strategies for parents
- Work with your partner to agree on household routines, rules, and discipline. Present a united front on these issues.
- Continue family traditions, discipline, and structure.
- Share information with teens about the returning parent’s experiences in a way they can understand.
- Encourage your teen to talk with you openly about any worries, feelings, or questions they might have.
- Answer questions honestly, monitoring the amount of details you share.
- Make an effort to spend one-on-one time to reconnect.
- Encourage your teen’s involvement in social, sporting, and school-based activities, and try to attend these activities yourself.
- Be aware of who your teens’ friends are and what they are doing.
The following behaviors are above and beyond what would typically be expected in teens post-deployment and should be taken very seriously by parents. Identifying and intervening with teens in these situations is imperative.
- High risk behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use, sexual acting out or problems with the law
- Frequent outbursts of aggression or violence against people or property
- Repeatedly missing curfew
- Marked withdrawal from family and friends
- Depressive symptoms, including prolonged periods of sadness or crying, prolonged negative moods, changes in appetite or sleep, thoughts of death or withdrawal from desired activities and friends
- Marked changes in school performance
- Excessive tardiness or absenteeism at school
- Significant changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Frequent nightmares
- Frequent physical complaints
- Threats of self-harm or harm to others
- Self-injury or self-destructive behavior, such as cutting on arms or legs
- Threats of running away
- Strange or unusual thoughts, beliefs, feelings or behaviors