Having an older teen who still acts out is one of the hardest things to deal with as a parent. Once your teen is over 18, they are technically an adult. Even though they may still act like a child, you can’t legally treat them like a child. Your options for helping a troubled teen who is 18 are more limited than they would be for a younger teenager.
Many young adults have a hard time transitioning into adulthood. They didn’t learn how to manage their emotions or develop self-reliance when they were younger, so they aren’t as mature as their peers. There are several things that you can do as a parent to help your troubled teen get ready for adulthood. However, it will take a lot of patience and commitment on your end.
Tips for helping troubled older teens
Many of the issues that plague older teens are the same as those that plague younger teens. Teens who struggle with mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse can take longer than usual to mature into adulthood. Their brains are still developing, and they haven’t fully matured physically or emotionally.
Teens who have officially reached adulthood still need to learn how to manage their behavior. While they are still living under your roof, your teen needs to be able to follow the household rules and stay out of trouble. Here are some strategies that you can try to help your troubled mature into a successful adult.
Set clear expectations
Teens like to push boundaries and see what they can get away with. When teenagers are first reaching puberty, their hormones can drive them to act out and try to gain more control over their lives.
As a young adult, though, a teen who is 18 knows that they’re an adult. They don’t want to be told what to do, and they want to have the freedom associated with adulthood. While they still live with you, they need to know that they don’t have the freedom just to do whatever they want. They still need to follow the household rules and contribute to a positive family environment.
Set clear expectations about your teen’s behavior. Make sure that they understand what is and is not acceptable. Until they grow up and branch out on their own, they are still governed by the rules of the house.
Communicate with them
If your kid feels anxious about growing up, it can affect their behavior. Your teen might be feeling weird about becoming an adult. School doesn’t always train kids on how to be an adult or on what to expect in the real world.
Communicate with your child openly and honestly about why their behavior concerns you. If they do something illegal and get caught, they could face adult consequences even though they might still feel like a kid sometimes; the world won’t treat them like one.
Your adult child needs to understand what real-world consequences are like. However, it’s important to note that scare tactics don’t tend to work very well. It’s better to talk to them about your concerns and give specific guidance on what they need to change.
Talk to a mental health professional
Teens who have a tough time transitioning into adulthood often have underlying issues that they need to address. If your 18-year-old is incredibly immature or rebellious for their age, they could be dealing with problems like:
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
Since your troubled teen is already 18, you cannot force them to go to therapy or attend a residential treatment center. However, you can encourage them to go and support them through the process.
If your teen’s behavior is bad enough, you could consider making it a requirement to continue to live at home. Many young adults will agree to work on their behavior when they realize that their parents are serious. Though it’s easier to send a child to a treatment center for troubled teens under 18, you can still find adult programs that can help troubled teens successfully move into adulthood.