Should You Ever Call the Police on Your Teen?

Should you call the police on your teen?
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Distraught parents wrestle over the question, “Should we call the police on our child?” It can be a hard decision, but sadly, there are times when a call to the police is warranted. Before making that call however, it’s important to be prepared for the impact that could have on your family.

The Consequences of Calling the Police

Getting the police involved with your family has serious implications. Depending on your child’s age and the area where you live, conviction of a crime may stay on your child’s permanent record.

A police record could impact your child’s future.

If you call the police to report illegal activity or violent behavior, you may not have control over what happens to your child. If charges are pressed, a judge may sentence your child to probation or to a juvenile detention center. You’ll simply have to go along with whatever the court systems decides to do with your child.

It’s unlikely however, that your teen will be taken away for a first offense. The police are more likely to write up a report and if your teen has to appear in court, a judge will likely to take every step possible to avoid locking your teen up. Going through the court system can be a long, slow process.

Of course, getting the police involved will also impact your relationship with your teen. Your teen is likely to feel a sense of betrayal and it may be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship after you’ve contacted the police.

Although you should consider the potential consequences, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call the police. There are times where behavior problems are so severe, the police may be necessary to maintain everyone’s safety.

Acts of Violence

Aggressive behavior may require police intervention. While a 12-year-old who breaks his cellphone out of anger could be given consequences at home, it may be appropriate to call the police when a 15-year-old becomes physically assaultive.

If your teen poses a safety risk, it’s important to seek help.

Illegal activity

You’re responsible for what goes on under your roof. If you’re aware of illegal activity – and you allow it to continue – you could be held legally responsible. Get law enforcement involved if your teen is selling drugs out of your home or is accepting stolen goods under your roof.

It’s up to parents to decide where to draw the line on illegal activity. It’s illegal for minors to drink alcohol, but most parents don’t call the police when they find alcohol in a teen’s bedroom. But, some parents do call the police if they discover cocaine or heroin in a teen’s possession. It’s really a judgement call.

Pattern of Bad Behavior

Another issue to consider is whether your teen’s behavior represents a one-time incident or a pattern of behavior. While it’s not necessary to call the police if your teen arrives home with a candy bar he stole from the store, if he steals regularly you may consider getting the police involved.

When you’ve seen a pattern of behavior that has you considering calling the police, give your teen a clear warning. Say something like, “The next time you come home with an item and you can’t explain where you got the money to buy it, I’m calling the police.” If you give the warning, it’s essential that you actually follow through.

Seek Professional Help

Serious behavior problems and substance abuse issues may be symptoms of underlying mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. And the juvenile justice system doesn’t always lead to kids getting the help they need. A juvenile detention center may provide a consequence for the behavior, but won’t necessarily treat the underlying problem.

If possible, seek mental health treatment before calling the police. Your teen may need therapy, residential treatment, or substance abuse rehab. If your teen refuses to attend counseling, attend an appointment on your own to discuss your options.

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