Pull Out All the Stops to Help Your Teen
- Tuesday, May 25, 2010
For parents, there is no worse feeling than watching your child spin out of control while nothing you do seems to make any difference. If your teenager's behavior is giving you feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear, I would like to offer you some suggestions.
First, stop what you are doing and start a new way of thinking in regard to how you are handling the situation. Albert Einstein defined insanity as "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If your home is feeling a little "insane" these days, perhaps you need to change how it operates.
Start in a new direction by first talking to others, like your friends, pastor, youth minister, your parents, your child's teachers, and the rest of the family. You need to gain wisdom and a sense of reality regarding the situation. Are you blowing it out of proportion, or perhaps not even noticing how bad it has become? Is your teenager just acting out at home, or are they behaving even worse when away from home? People around you will know, and they can help you gain perspective.
Accepting the reality of the problem is difficult for some parents. They won't acknowledge it because to them it would be accepting responsibility for failure. Others tend to see just the good and believe no wrong in their children. They are blinded to what everyone around them can already see; that is, until it becomes a full blown crisis or tragedy. So when you come to a right "realization," don't hesitate to begin your search for a resolution by validating your suspicions with those around you. They know what's going on and will be glad that you finally see the light.
When It is Time to Act
I'm sure you wish this situation wasn't at your doorstep. But it is, so you have to act on your child's behalf. And no matter how lonely it might be, or how difficult it might appear; no matter what your child's response, you must act quickly.
Step One: Investigate
It is critical to ask questions to get to the root of what is causing your child's change in behavior. Is he depressed? Has a major loss happened in your family recently? Is he being bullied, abused, or using drugs or alcohol? Most of the time, parents find out way too late about underlying causes of a child's behavior. Communication is key at this time. If the lines of communication are down, then re-establish them—forcing communication if need be. Require time from your child to discuss how they're doing before you pay their next car insurance bill, give them gas money, or hand over the keys to the car. Determine to establish the lines of communication and make sure you ask lots of questions.
Find out how your child is acting elsewhere. Talk to your child's teachers, the school administration, kids at church, your own parents, your siblings, their siblings, your friends, their friends, their youth minister and just about anyone who has had contact with your child. See if they have any insights into why your child's behavior has changed. In fact, if your teen's friends show up at your home, don't be afraid to ask them what's going on. Some will be honest, as they might be just as concerned as well. Just make sure you ask questions, and ask everyone to be honest with you.
Step Two: Set Boundaries
Establish and communicate clear boundaries for behavior by all members of your family (not just your wayward teen). Determine what you hold to be true and the principles upon which you will base your rules for living. Communicate and live by these boundaries, rather than "shooting from the hip" every time something comes up. Make a policy and procedure manual for your home, so everyone knows what to expect. Spend some time determining how you want to live and put some feet to it to ensure that all understand those boundaries.
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