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How troubled is your troubled teen? Take the test and find out

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At what point do parents throw up their hands in frustration and say "Enough!", we need help local resources just don't seem able to provide?

That question is one parents living with a troubled teen invariably find themselves asking. For some, the answer comes while completing an online survey created by the Venture Academy for Troubled Teens, a Canadian residential treatment program for troubled teens (see Venture Academy's listing on Our Kids), in Barrie, Ontario.

The survey, posted online recently, provides parents with an anonymous way to determine if their teen is exhibiting "normal teenager behaviour" or something worse.

"Parents want what's best for their kids but don't always know what that is or how to get it," says Susan Kenney, Director of Admissions. "Many parents have received conflicting advice about the seriousness of their teen's behaviour or where to go for help and are almost paralyzed with fear, worried that whatever step they take will be the wrong one."

Kenney says the results of the test often validate their concerns and confirm that it may be time to seek help.

"It's hard for families to look outside themselves for help, but these are loving families watching their child spiral out of control."

The survey asks parents to consider how much time their teen spends with friends and if they are more attached to those friends than family. Questions about drug and alcohol use, school truancy, Internet use, aggression, anger, and self-harm are also included.

The survey's last question may be the most telling of all: "Do you think your child needs help?"

"Parents know instinctively if their teen needs help but that doesn't always mean they've admitted it out loud," Kenney says. "It's been my experience that no parent who calls is overreacting to so-called 'normal teen behaviour.' Most are dealing with very troubling circumstances and are looking for reassurance and help."

Signs that may indicate a teen is troubled and needs help include:

  • An increased desire for privacy and secrecy
  • Sudden outbursts of anger that are out-of-proportion to what seems to have caused the outburst
  • Missing curfew, skipping family commitments, and lying about where he or she is
  • A change in peer group, especially if behaviour changes seem linked to the new friends
  • Extreme mood swings and/or sleeping more or less than usual
  • A sudden drop in grades and/or loss of interest in activities they once liked (sports for instance)

Venture Academy for Troubled Teens is a residential treatment program with locations in British Columbia and Ontario. Visit their website at www.ventureacademy.ca and take the test.

—Gordon Hay
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