Parents love their kids but often feel at the end of their rope when teens start acting out and behaving in difficult or dangerous ways. While there are no easy answers or solutions that fit all problems, there are some general tips to help weather the troubled teen storm.
Talk to your troubled teen
Be open and curious, not judgemental and critical. Your teen’s behaviour may be a symptom of a deeper problem, and being overly disapproving won’t help you uncover the motivation for unsavoury behaviour.
Assign boundaries and applicable consequences for breaking them and be consistent about both. Try to calmly discuss why your teen’s actions are a problem and ask questions that require more than “yes” or “no” answers. Make sure your responses show empathy and support, even if you don’t feel the problems he shared are a big deal. It’s a big deal to your teen, so take what he says seriously.
It’s important to discuss more appropriate ways of dealing with their problems than the behaviour you want to stop, so engage your teen to suggest alternatives. Speeches about your feelings and the stress you’re feeling generally fall on deaf ears. A simple statement using “I feel” to describe your reaction to his wrongdoing has a better chance of making an impact than accusations like “You stress me out!” which only cause resentment, don’t address the underlying concerns and make your teen feel like you don’t understand him.
Go with a pro
Get professional help. As soon as possible. Even if your teen won’t attend sessions with a counsellor, you will still benefit from the support and expertise. Not all therapists are the same, so ask questions in your first meeting to ensure the counsellor’s beliefs, values and methodologies align with your own.
Yes, you want fresh perspectives and suggestions, but you don’t want to step away from your core values out of desperation to “fix” your child. A therapist who suggests kicking a difficult child out on the street just isn’t right for you or your teen if you think love, support and encouragement are the best ways of handling problems. It’s also ok to interview more than one professional before you choose somebody that feels comfortable.
If your teen is participating in counselling, she should have veto rights on any therapist she doesn’t like if you want her to be open, honest and listen to the therapist’s advice. A full check-up by your teen’s medical doctor doesn’t hurt either, just to ensure there are no medical issues affecting behaviour.
Time well spent
Spend as much time as possible together. Not only does this limit the available time your teen has to find mischief, it also demonstrates you love him and find value in his presence. Yes, it’s hard when you have a busy job and are tired when you get home, but time together doesn’t have to be complicated.
Ask your teenager to help you prepare a meal and make it a lighthearted and fun time in the kitchen together with some of his favourite music and dance moves. As much as you want to pepper your child with questions about marks, his activities and those friends you know are a bad influence, giving him an inquisition every time you’re together is a sure way to make your teen never want to spend time with you again!
Watch a movie together (let your teen chose) or ask if you can watch his favourite show or YouTube channel together and talk about what he likes or dislikes about it. You may just find an interesting and intelligent person waiting for a chance to be heard behind that behaviour you could live without.
Share your experience
Talk to people other than your teenager. Tell your boss what’s going on at home. He or she may be more understanding than you think, and will at least know why you come in late occasionally or need to leave early sometimes. Hopefully, you’ll get cut some slack, but if not, using some of your vacation days to decompress can help.
Talk to your friends for support. Talk to your significant other. Talk to your parents. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about saying you’re at your wits’ end and letting your network help you out. The people who care most about you will be supportive. Just don’t embarrass your kid by sharing their troubles on social media! They’re entitled to privacy, even when they’re making you crazy. Sometimes it takes a village to raise a mother, too.
If you need problem-specific advice and support, look for a support group that you can attend with other parents dealing with the same issues you are. At the very least, you won’t feel alone in your struggles.