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Answers to Questions for Parenting Troubled Teens

Answers to Questions for Parenting Troubled Teens


Every year, more than 2 million youths under age 18 are arrested in the United States. However, even those who never had trouble with the law can still be classified as “troubled” or “at risk.”

These terms are closely related:

  • At risk teens are those deemed less likely to transition successfully into adulthood.
  • Troubled teens are those facing major behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues.

“At risk” is used in social work, education, and law, but “troubled” is a more general term that describes a wide range of issues. Without appropriate care and compassion, troubled teens develop into those who are at risk of long-term life setbacks.

A teenager can have temporary problems at home, school, or within the community – even serious ones – without being “troubled.” Growing up is full of challenges and difficult decisions, and all young people make some mistakes.

When mistakes develop into a pattern of self-destructive behavior, however, it suggests the teen does not have the coping mechanisms needed to manage stress or other tough emotions.

Parents have many questions about caring for troubled teens. It’s vital to get information from experts who truly understand the situation.

Here are some common questions asked by parents of troubled teens:

What Are the Signs of a Troubled Teenager?

To recognize the signs of a troubled teen, it’s important to be alert to the teenager’s usual moods, personality, and activities. Changes can be sudden, but might not be noticeable right away.

Unexplained problems with school – including grades and attendance – often signal trouble. Changes in behavior patterns like staying out all night, sleeping in, or pulling away from hobbies or responsibilities often point to negative life influences.

While being closed off and deceptive with adults are red flags, it’s viral to proceed with caution. Many troubled teens struggle daily with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other undiagnosed issues. They may feel they need to conceal their condition simply so family and friends will not worry.

How Can a Parent or Guardian Help Troubled Teens?

Be attentive, be prepared, and be ready to talk to your teen about serious issues, even if you hear things you might not like. It’s always easier to resolve problems when you address them early.

If problems are mild, you can make things easier with consistency in household rules. Responsibilities and consequences should be clearly communicated and change over time to match a teen’s maturity.

If violence or addiction are involved, seek professional help. Appropriate care is essential to ensuring deeply troubled teens don’t pose a risk to themselves or others.

Where Can I Go for Help With a Troubled Teenager?

Your family pediatrician can guide you through treatment resources available to you. He or she can also discuss your teen’s behavior to help you determine if it requires intervention.

Long-term therapy can be wise if the family is experiencing communication issues such as lying, “stonewalling,” or yelling. Parents should participate in sessions along with their teen.

What Can I Do if My Teenager Refuses My Help?

Teens may insist they don’t need help, but it is possible for even the best-intentioned teen to end up over his or her head. If your teen refuses to go to counseling, you’re within your rights to speak to mental health professionals on your own to discuss your options. Teachers, coaches, and other responsible adults may work with you to provide a safe, supportive environment for your teen.

WinGate Wilderness Therapy provides such an environment. Teens learn coping skills in a supervised, goal-driven outdoor program while building healthy bonds with peers. To learn more, contact us.


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