The secret to fixing a troubled teen

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troubled teen kneels against graffiti wall

Adolescence can be absolute insanity.  Parents and teachers want teens to “grow up,” but at the same time they don’t feel comfortable giving them the freedom to do so (often for good reason).  I’ve learned a lot about families from studying psychology but even more from working professionally as a youth counselor for many years.  Having weekly family meetings in their living rooms and also working independently with the teens has shown me that many don’t feel like they have anyone who’s listening.

Listening isn’t always easy.  Put down your phone and look them in the eyes.  Listen to your child like a 9-1-1 operator with the goal of understanding their situation so you can get them what they need.  A fire truck?  An ambulance?  A math tutor?  An advocate to talk to your teen’s teacher about another student in class who keeps bullying them?  Sometimes all they need is someone to acknowledge that something was unfair and a “oh man, that really sucks” is enough.  The best way to get the news about what’s going on in your teen’s life is by listening with your full attention.  You’re on the same side and you both want the best for them, right?

Outside the home there can be plenty of “enemies,” so try to avoid becoming another enemy at home.  We hope teachers and peers are building up and lifting our teens at school, but sometimes that’s not the case.  Sometimes teachers try to break their students’ bad attitudes by showing them who’s boss.  Sometimes peers make fun of others to cover up their own insecurities.  I’ve known plenty of teens who feel beat down all day long at school and when they come home it’s just more of the same.  All day, every day.  A parent in the same situation might need a vacation or a drink so is it really a surprise that their teen might start to do the same?

So what can you do to avoid battles at home?  Figure out common goals and work toward them together.  Instead of parent: “do your homework!” teen: “leave me alone!”,  you can try something like parent: “if you get your homework done early and it’s still light out, I can take you for some drivers permit training time” teen: “ugh fine.”