Assessing and Understanding Your Adolescent: What’s Normal and What May Not Be

What is ‘normal’ for a teenager?

Every adolescent is different. Even so, caregivers may often find themselves wondering if the behavior being exhibited by their teenager is ‘normal’ or not. It is important to remember that every family, place, peer group, culture and community will have their own set of norms. All these intersecting norms can make it hard for someone to know if what is happening with their adolescent is something that needs clinical intervention or is just part of the experience of reaching adulthood. The team at ilearn wellness group is here to help when these concerns come up for families in our community.

What does it mean to be a ‘normal’ teen?

When it comes to trying to decide if your teen’s experiences, behaviors, or needs are ‘normal’ or not, it can be helpful to consider what normal really means for your child, student, or community member. Most adolescents will go through periods of change during the time they are 12-18, as puberty, brain development, new peers, and new opportunities shape the people they are becoming. Many teens will experiment with new friends, current trends, and varying ways of relating to others. Some of these experiments will be successful and rewarding and some of them will be learning opportunities that may be tough for your teen to work through.

It is expected that adolescence is the time that teens begin to develop and grow into their own unique identities influenced by, but separate from, those around them. They may begin to assert their own wants, needs, and desires over those of others. This can lead to conflict, as the relationship to the parent or caregiver may quickly appear to lose importance as the adolescent explores the limits of autonomy, the rewards and challenges of friendships, and the paths to the future they see laid out before them. This can also be a time of great comparison, not only to others in their lives but also to those who they engage with online as influencers and inspiration. For many teens, the need for autonomy, self-expression, exploration, and social status can take priority over things that may have been important to them in the past or that would be important to them in the future. This can leave the caregiver feeling like they do not know their teen at all – especially if their attempts to connect are met with statements that reinforce this feeling.

The importance of knowing a baseline

Since adolescence is such a time of growth and change, it is important to remember you do know your teen. A baseline is a description of your teen’s usual and expected behaviors. If you feel like your teenager is experiencing something that has them acting noticeably different than their usual self, it can be good to explore when this change happened, what changes have occurred, and how it is impacting your adolescent. This information can be helpful if you do need to speak to a supportive person or make a referral to a higher level of treatment such as ilearn wellness group.


Adolescence is a time of growth but also of change. Your teen’s individual experiences, personality, and self will influence how your teen navigates the new challenges of being an adolescent. However, if you notice that something is happening that falls under the following categories, it is likely a good idea to reach out for a more in-depth assessment or support.

  • If your child has a safety concern
  • If something is occurring that influences your child’s ability to take care of themself If something is occurring that is impacting your child’s ability to make friends or have supportive peers
  • If something is occurring that makes it hard for your child to engage at school or at work

Many behaviors are ‘normal’ or expected in moderation, but if a behavior or issue begins to impact your adolescent in one or more of the ways listed above, they may be experiencing symptoms that require clinical intervention, not just the ‘normal’ challenges of adolescence. Any imminent safety concerns should be addressed promptly, such as by an emergency department, 911, or community mobile crisis response program.

For more information, reach out to us today.

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