Help your teen deal with losses. Consider what losses your teen has suffered that caused a need he or she may be trying to fulfill through reckless behavior. Give your teen permission to fully express his or her thoughts and feelings about losses, and go through the process of grieving them. Get your teen connected to a counselor, pastor, or support group to help in the healing process. If your teen is spinning out of control despite all efforts to help, consider placing your teen in a residential facility temporarily for intensive help. Ask God to help you express the kind of tough love your teen needs to turn his or her life around.

Establish a belief system for your home. Think and pray about what you want most in life, and what you would like to see changed in your home. Consider such areas as: academics, spiritual, social, behavioral, character, medical, possessions, entertainment, responsibilities, privileges, and family. Write down a list of values you believe in, rules for how your family should function based on your beliefs, and consequences for breaking the rules. Choose to highlight values and rules that are most important to you now, so you don’t overwhelm your teen (remember that you can add more to your list later).

Clearly communicate your belief system to your teen so he or she knows what to expect. For example, an academic belief could be, “Our children should be able to pass all their classes throughout their high school years.” A corresponding rule could be, “There will be no failing grades in school.” A consequence could be, “No computer time at home other than for homework until all grades are passing grades.” Come up with a plan for incorporating your belief system into your family life, and regularly check to see if you’re on track.

Hold on to hope. Remember that God is always available to give you the strength you need as you go through this crisis with your teen. Know that the way you relate to your teen during this time when he or she needs you the most will determine the quality of your relationship with him or her in the future. Stay connected to God through prayer and ask Him to let His love flow through you into your teen’s life. Then wait with eager anticipation for the much better days that may lie ahead for both your teen and you.

Adapted from When Your Teen is Struggling: Real Hope and Practical Help for Parents Today, copyright 2007 by Mark Gregston. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,    

Mark Gregston is the founder and executive director of Heartlight Ministries, a residential counseling facility for adolescents in crisis. He is also a popular radio host and speaker and leads Dealing with Today’s Teens seminars across the country. He and his wife, Jan, have served and counseled youth for more than 30 years. They have two grown children.