Parenting a teenager is never easy, but when your teen is violent, depressed, abusing alcohol or drugs, or engaging in other reckless behavior, it can seem overwhelming. You may feel exhausted from lying awake at night worrying about where your child is, who he or she is with, and what she or he is doing.
You may despair over failed attempts to communicate, the endless fights, and the open defiance. Or you may live in fear of your teen’s violent mood swings and explosive anger. While parenting a troubled teen can often seem like an impossible task, there are steps you can take to ease the chaos at home and help your teen transition into a happy, successful young adult.
Knowing the Struggle
It’s unlikely that your teen is making trouble to purposefully hurt you; children struggle with all sorts of overwhelming changes and not all teens transition into adulthood smoothly. It’s a confusing time and a troubled world in which they’re living, and because you cannot be with them every second, they have to navigate much of it on their own. Repeated problematic behavior could be a sign of normal struggles, or of deeper emotional and psychological issues. It’s important to first understand what the problem is.
Certain things are too often made into bigger issues than they really are in the grander scheme; clothing, for example, should not become the subject of a major argument. Your child is growing and his or her tastes are changing. It is normal for a child to experiment, so unless the clothing has graphic phrases that reveal troubled thinking, it may help to be flexible with the wardrobe changes, and other things that don’t really signal abnormal behavior.
Watch for symptom combinations; outbursts, constant rebellion at home and school, self-harm or suggesting the harm of others, drugs, and other related things are the more serious problems. There is a noticeable difference between normal hormonal fluctuations and severe reactions. These are the things to discuss with your child.
Be cautious when entering into a discussion, as it can easily turn into a fight. If your child is suffering from emotional problems, she or he may lash out. It is important to remain calm, and let your teens know that you’re concerned, and you want to hear their side of the issues. Make time to talk, to be together, but try to leave out the television and other devices that let the problems of the world in. Show that you’re interested in them, in loving them, and not in “fixing” them.
Be careful, however, that you don’t become too much of a friend; all parents want to connect with their teens, but it is easy to cross over from parenthood into buddy territory, which makes maintaining discipline and respect much more difficult. Boundaries and rules are important, and all children naturally resist these. It is important to remain the authority figure to make those rebellions less of a struggle.
Sometimes, however, the problems won’t be solved with talk. Parents need some help, and there’s no shame in seeking it. Find a good psychologist for your teen. Or, find one for both of you so you can work through it together, and you can show that they’re not alone in the struggle. If the troubles are beyond what you can do to help at home, there is also no indignity in that. There are plenty of safe, successful programs made to help rehabilitate teenagers, like those at therapeutic boarding schools like Diamond Ranch Academy.
No matter what help you find, remember that it’s still up to you. You have to continue the changes at home, showing the extra love and support, and sometimes it means more than changes for them; it means permanent, ongoing changes for you. You have to be happier and healthier. Rest well, exercise, and de-stress. You cannot take care of another person if you do not care for yourself.
Hope exists. If you work at it, you and your teenager can get through these trials. It will take a lot of effort on your part, and though you cannot control how much effort they put in, you can show teens that it’s all worthwhile. Your teen can be happy again, and you can be happy knowing he or she is.