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Ask a psychotherapist

March 28, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Question: I’m troubled by changes in my daughter’s behaviour. She’s always been an A student but at the end of grade 9, she started hanging around with a different group of friends. She got secretive about her activities and was always going off to see some new friend we’d never heard of. In grade 10, her marks dropped and she kept telling us she had little homework. While she barely passed grade 10, now in grade 11, the school reports that she’s skipping many classes and that she may not pass all of her courses. When we try to talk to her about this, she tells us to back off and let her live her own life. This seems like a complete personality change for her and we’re at our wits end trying to figure out what’s going on and how to get her back on track.

Answer: Adolescence is a time of great change and upheaval for most teens as their bodies and minds undergo significant changes on the way to adulthood. Unfortunately, physical growth and maturation generally outstrip the much slower development of the pre-frontal cortex, the executive control centre of the brain.  Impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours peak in the teen years and previously well-adjusted kids can fall off the rails.

While it’s normal for teens to become more private, the degree of alteration in your daughter’s usual behaviours and performance is concerning. Secrecy, mood changes, new “friends” and academic difficulties can be indicators that a teen is experimenting with drugs. You do not say whether you have ever observed signs of intoxication in your daughter. Teens who are experimenting with substances can become experts at concealing signs of use.

While the majority of teens will engage in some experimentation with substances before they are adults without enormous consequences, for some early use will result in addictions and the losses that follow. I will have more to say in future columns about teen drug use.

Alison Kerr, Ph.D., Psychotherapist can be reached at 905 936-2400 or at allikerr@rogers.com

 

         


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