How To Spot An At-Risk Youth And Provide Help

One of the biggest challenges of helping young people is distinguishing a kid who's just going through a bad version of the usual stuff and one who's troubled. There are, however, signs to look for, especially if you see a few of them together. Let's take a look at four ways you can spot at-risk youths and provide help.

Reduced Hygiene

Many issues start to manifest outwardly, and it's not uncommon for hygiene to decline. A young person may stop changing their clothes or brushing their hair as regularly as they once did.

Note that this is relative. If a kid was always a little bit rough on the style front, they may just be an odd duck. However, a kid who suddenly goes from a 6 on the messiness scale to a 9 may be manifesting signs of depression, drug or alcohol use, or home troubles.

Be polite, but try to inquire about why the change has occurred. Even if the answer is defensive, simply listen.

Many New Friends

Although youth leads to changes in friends, there shouldn't be a wholesale purge. If many new friends start appearing, you should worry about what's driving the change. This is especially the case if the changes don't seem to be based on a predictable source, such as changing classes or taking up sports.

Academic Trouble

Kids' grades often decline when their attention is focused elsewhere. That loss of focus is frequently a sign of trouble, especially if it doesn't seem to come from one or two classes. A young person might have trouble with Algebra II, for example, but they shouldn't also develop difficulty in English, Art, and Gym at the same time.

Staying Out

This is often a sign that not only is a youth having trouble, but there might not be anyone at home to pump the brakes. If you see them running around at hours that are far from age-appropriate, especially all the time, that's something to take note of.

How to Help

First, take a moment to go through the list of items here and see how many matches. A couple might not be the biggest deal, but you should still have a conversation. Once you see a lot of what's listed here, it's time to think about troubled youth treatments. The idea should be introduced with the young person and at least one parent. You can then outline your concerns and determine how to proceed.