The adolescent years can be a stressful and difficult time for both teens and parents. When behavioral issues like defiance, depression, anxiety, substance abuse or mental disorders are a factor, it can leave family relationships struggling to survive. Parenting a troubled teen can be particularly frustrating because it often feels like nothing seems to help him turn his life around. In some of the more severe cases, boys can benefit from a full time help program like a therapeutic boarding school or a residential treatment center. However, before it gets to that point, there are some things you can do at home to improve your relationship with your child and help him make better decisions:
Practice Communication – Because many teens draw away from their parents during the adolescent years, it is tempting to just give them their space; however, it is important that you make the effort to remain connected to your son, even when it seems that he isn’t interested. If your questions and attempts at conversations are met with shrugs or grunts, be consistent in letting your teen know that you are always going to be interested in his life. You never know when your efforts are going to break through his emotional barriers.
Be Involved – Know where your teen is and who he is hanging out with as much as possible. While it is not reasonable to keep tabs on your child every second of the day, make sure he knows that you plan to keep on top of his activities, especially if he has been exhibiting behavioral issues.
Be Clear – You might assume that your teen knows the rules, but it is crucial to be clear about what is allowed and what is not. Regular conversations about acceptable behavior can help stop many arguments between you and your child. It is equally important to make sure he knows what the consequences are for breaking rules.
Be Consistent – Troubled teens often test their boundaries; sometimes just because they can and sometimes to see if the penalty remains the same. While it may get tiring to reinforce the same discipline over and over, you are still sending a clear message to your teen. It helps him make positive changes when he can consistently and accurately predict his consequences.
Compromise – Teens are at a crossroad between childhood and becoming adults and many of their power struggles come from a desire for greater independence. You can help foster this in your son by giving him a say in some of the household rules. Allow him to weigh in on what are reasonable restrictions and what the consequences should be for breaking them. He is more likely to own his behavior if he is offered the opportunity to help manage it.
Be Patient – Keep in mind that responsibility and maturity are learned behaviors and some teens pick those up faster than others. Know that your efforts will make a difference, even if it takes a while to see it.
Take Care Of Yourself – It is nearly impossible to be effective parents when you are worn out, but when you are dealing with a troubled teen, your needs often take a back seat. Do what you can to recharge yourself, even if it is just a night out or a bubble bath. Many parents benefit from therapy for themselves as a way to vent their emotions and get helpful feedback.
Ask For Help – Dealing with a troubled teen can be one of the hardest things parents experience. Get as many helpers on board as you can, including therapists, school and/or ecclesiastical leaders. The more support you have, the more you can give your son. Recognize that asking for help is not the same as admitting defeat.
Know when your son needs intervention – There are times when nothing you do at home can match the therapeutically intensive, full time environment many teens need in order to move in a positive direction. Keep your options open and know that if you choose to utilize such an option, the right program can change your son’s life.
Sundance Canyon Academy is a residential treatment center located in northern Utah. We specialize in helping troubled teens from throughout the country overcome their issues and move effectively toward a happier and healthier future. For information, please contact us at 1-866-2425.