Answers to Parents' Top Questions About Parenting Troubled Teens

If you're raising a troubled teen this is what you should know.
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Each year, over 1 million teens in American end up in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, the parents of many of those troubled teens saw problems for years, but weren’t sure how to intervene or where to get help.

In fact, many parents don't even know who to turn to when they have questions about raising a troubled teen. Here are the top five questions parents ask about parenting a troubled teen:

1. How Do You Define a Troubled Teen?

The term troubled teen is used to define a wide array of behavioral or emotional problems among adolescents. Some troubled teens have mental health issues, like depressive disorders or ADHD, that interfere with their daily functioning.

Other warning signs of a troubled teen include at-risk behavior, like truancy, drug and alcohol experimentation, or stealing.

Problems often start in one area of a teen's life and over time, problems spread to all areas. For example, a teen may begin hanging out with the wrong crowd, which may cause turmoil with his parents. His grades may decline and eventually, his education will suffer.

2. What Can I Do to Help My Troubled Teen?

One of the best things you can do to help a troubled teen is to intervene early. It’s much easier to address problems when they’re in their earliest stages. But, it’s better to intervene late than never, so if you’ve allowed problems to go on for a long time, take action as soon as possible.

For small problems, creating a few changes at home can make a big difference. Establishing stricter rules and enforcing consequences can often curb problems.

Talk to your teen about risky behavior and monitor your teen’s daily activities more closely. The increased supervision may be enough to put a stop to troubling behavior.

If you’re dealing with more serious problems, seek professional help. Never try to address addiction or violent behavior on your own. Mental health or medical professionals can provide you with the appropriate resources.

3. How Can I Get Help?

A good place to start is by discussing your concerns with your child’s pediatrician. A pediatrician can help determine whether the behaviors you’re seeing constitute normal teenage behavior or a more serious problem. A pediatrician can also refer you to the most appropriate resources in your area, such as a mental health professional or a substance abuse treatment facility.

4. What If My Teen Refuses Help?

It’s common for most teens to insist they don’t want—or need—help. But just because your teen declines treatment doesn’t mean you can’t continue to pursue help. If your teen refuses to go to counseling, meet with a mental health professional on your own to discuss your options.

5. How Do I Deal with the Stress of Raising a Troubled Teen?

Managing your stress is one of the most important things you can do while raising any teenager, let alone a troubled one. It’s important to practice good self-care so you don’t become so overwhelmed that you can’t address your teen’s issues.

Consider seeking therapy for yourself or join a support group. Don’t hesitate to seek help from friends or family as well. Take time out to engage in healthy activities for yourself to effectively manage your stress level.


US Department of Justice: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

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