While it's not always easy to parent a teenager, something that we sometimes forget as parents is that making it through the teenage years is not easy for your child either. The beginning of their hormones growing wild, peer pressure to deal with, and the constant need to grow too quickly. It's a lot to handle when they are still developing good decision making and judgment skills.
So what do you do when your teen begins to act violently, emotionally withdraws, begins to exhibit reckless behavior such as drinking or abusing drugs? First, it’s important to communicate with your child. Try to make your child feel at ease, like they can open up to you about whatever it is they’re going through. This is exactly the part where most parents make missteps.
Think about it. Let’s say your child shoplifted with a friend or maybe they’re getting high together. How are their friends reacting to that? They’re participating and getting some kind of enjoyment out of it. So if you approach them in anger, blaming or shaming, what’s the likelihood that they’ll talk to you about the behavior, even if they have their own misgivings?
As we all know, teens do not react well to being told what to do or how to think. If they know we are going to disapprove, they’ll simply stop talking to us about it or try to hide it from us. This is really hard as a parent, because you don’t want to condone high risk behavior and being open and non-judgmental in those conversations can seem like you’re accepting of it.
The approach that works best is to come from a position of love. Let them know that you want to understand why they’re engaging in the behavior, what they like about it. Then honestly share your feelings and concerns while making sure to let them know you’re always open to disagreement, but want to make sure your teen is aware they can talk to you about anything, even if it’s not the same choice you would make yourself.
And this doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries, like refusing to let them use drugs in the house or not giving them an allowance if you think it’s being used for drugs, which we’ll get into more later.
However, if you have tried talking to your child numerous times with no success, there are other options for you to help your teen. If their behavior has gotten out of control and you’re worried about what may happen to them in the future if this behavior continues, an intervention could be a good solution.
After all, there are no classes on parenting at your local college. We didn’t learn this stuff growing up either. When a teen’s behavior becomes hard to handle, listening to experts who deal with this every day is often a smart choice. So here are some tips from our Adolescent Behavioral Health Therapists here at Bricolage:
Intervention Tips: Do’s and Don’ts
If you suspect or have already confirmed that your child is using drugs or alcohol, is constantly depressed or is displaying other self-destructive behavior, it’s critical that you take action immediately. An intervention can be as straightforward as a conversation with your teen about your concerns and getting them the help they need to get past it. Sure, it’s a scary time, but you’ll get through it together and there’s plenty of support out there if you feel you need to bring in outside help. Just remember our advice above about being non confrontational and non-judgemental in those initial conversations.
However, there are many approaches that are more successful than others. Here are some tips to make sure the intervention with your teen goes as smoothly as possible.
Do Give It Time
An intervention can take more than one sitting to be successful. Of course, you don’t want it to drag on weeks and weeks, but you also don’t want to pressure your child because of an arbitrary schedule. What works is to get your teen to enter a rehabilitation program of their own accord, because they wish to become clean and sober. Once they reach that decision, definitely help them start immediately. Don’t delay.
While it may sound dramatic and convincing to tell your child why their way of life is wrong or how much damage they’ve done, this approach will not achieve its desired effect. Their reasoning for having entered this chaotic and deteriorating world will always be illogical to you and your family, but to your teen, it is the core of their universe and makes complete sense to them. Until they see for themselves that their behavior is actually making them miserable, the door to recovery will remained shut. Don’t judge them, support their rational decisions and the door will pop open.
It’s important to note that their reckless behavior may be coming from a past traumatic event, or maybe they’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. Maybe your child doesn’t feel comfortable opening up, so it’s very important that you don’t judge while they might be going through something really difficult.
Do Keep Calm
Losing your temper and berating your teen will just give them a reason to douse their pain with more drugs or alcohol. Stay calm. Consider how you like to be handled when you have a problem or you’re doing something that you know isn’t right. No one enjoys being told they are worthless, selfish, reckless, etc. Focus on your love of your child and remind them of what is good about them.
Their Closest Friend or Relative Should Handle the Conversation
When planning the intervention, it’s important to have the person who has the closest relationship to your loved one handle the conversation. For example, if your loved one doesn’t have a close relationship with their father, his comments may just push your loved one further away from the decision to enter treatment. Your loved one is more likely to listen and consider going to treatment if their closest friend or relative is talking to them.
Don’t Approach Your Child When They Are Drunk or High
You want to talk to your child when they are sober. If you talk to them when they are drunk or high, you aren’t talking to the real person. Your teen won’t respond well and won’t listen (and might not even remember the conversation later). They are more likely to become abrasive, having false courage pumping through their veins from the drugs. Wait. Find a time when they are coherent and able to listen.
Bricolage Behavioral Health is Here for the Teens of Flower Mound, Texas
The staff here at Bricolage Behavioral Health does not want teen mental health to continue being swept under the rug.
We believe that the whole family gets stronger when their kids and adolescents have the best tools to live both functionally and happily, and we have unique assessment methods and counseling plans to make it happen for each individual family we work with.
Offering Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient Care (which can work around your son or daughter’s school schedule!), and aftercare plans, we want to bring out the inner resilience in your children and help your whole family.
Located on Long Prairie Road, near Firewheel Drive and the Montessori Rainbow School, and close one of Flower Mound’s large residential areas, we are convenient to reach out to.
So, don’t wait for your kids to spiral out of control. Talk to them. And then talk to us.
Call Bricolage Behavioral Health for a Mental Health Assessment for Your Child or Teen Today: 469-968-5700