Got a teen at home? Are they drifting from you and the values you’ve tried to instill as a parent? Follow these tips to help your troubled teen.
One day you’re getting along with your teenager. They seem happy and you feel proud as a parent. Then, seemingly without warning, your healthy family dynamic crumbles and you find an angry, troubled teen screaming at you. What happened? Where did you go wrong? How can you fix it?
The short answer? Your troubled teen has switched loyalties. If you say anything they may interpret as an attack on their friends or their value system, you will reap anger and resentment in return. You are no longer the parent; you are the enemy.
How Your Troubled Teen Became a Troubled Teen
- Your teen values their friends more
When everyone at home was getting along swimmingly, the teenager’s loyalty was to the family. If the teen feels ignored and unwanted, however, they seek outside companionship and finds it within their peer group. Once that happens, it will be very difficult to convince the teen to go back to a place where they feel they do not belong.
- Your teen values their friends’ values more
When your teen becomes part of this new group, they exchange the family values you’ve instilled and adopt those of the peer group. To the teen, it does not matter if that value system involves high-risk behavior (sex, drugs, alcohol, crime). The teen seeks a sense of belonging and everything else falls by the wayside. The effect is so powerful, the pull so strong, that even if they are abused by the group, the teen is unwilling to leave.
Too Far Down the Road
According to statistics, the following will occur in the next 24 hours in the United States:
- 1,439 teens will attempt suicide
- 2,795 teenage girls will become pregnant
- 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time
- 3,506 teens will run away
- 2 teens will be murdered
If you see your troubled teen drifting into a life of drugs, alcohol, sex, and crime, you must intervene. It may be the last chance you have; ignore the situation and the next call you receive may be from the police or the morgue. Once these issues reach a boiling point, the parent and teen will probably need counseling.
Four Ways For a Parent to Save Their Troubled Teen
Remember, you are the parent and it is your responsibility to take the lead in keeping your family intact. When your child starts to form new relationships outside the home, invite those friends over to family gatherings and other events. Get to know the friend’s parents to assess their values. When the child is too preoccupied with peers, that should be a warning sign. The parent must get involved.
Be intentional in the upbringing of your child. Be sure to schedule family vacations and your teen’s activities into your calendar so they feel accepted and valued.
Children need to be guided through life’s challenges with honesty, which can be based on a personal relationship with God. Your teen needs guidance as to where they fit in the family and how they will function as adults in society.
This is related to #2, above. Intentional training can involve sharing new and different experiences with your teen. This can include shared hobbies or traveling, or it can be as simple as a walk on the beach, in the woods, or through the city. Nearly anything you come across can be used as a teaching tool. As a parent, you should initiate these activities.
Tough love for the parents out there: You didn’t just end up with a troubled teen. You created a situation in which your teen became troubled. Parents need to take more responsibility. Your role as a parent is to guide, to shape, to mold. Many of us introduce the right values when our children are young, but then we fail to reinforce those values during the child’s formative years. If the parent doesn’t rise to the occasion, the influence of the teen’s peers may be too strong.
There’s a story we hear far too often: A parent loses a child and implores anyone who will listen to do better with their own kid. To listen more. To be more involved. To be proactive. Those parents won’t get a second chance; yours is right in front of you.