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Parenting Troubled Teens


When some kid is screaming for candy in the checkout line and the mother is reaching for the Hershey’s bar, I want to grab hold of her, like most people, and say, “Don’t do it!” However, because my own children had serious problems with drugs and I was so unaware during their teen years, I feel very uncomfortable even discussing parenting, let alone giving advice. But I can offer some thoughts on what a mother might do for herself.  Much of this learned from positive experiences gained through years of therapy and going to Al-Anon and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meetings.

My first suggestion: Don’t isolate. It’s important to connect with parents who have similar troubles and fears in some sort of support structure that keeps the sharing healthy: mainly that there is no cross-talk or advice giving. No cross-talk advice is the rule at Al-Anon meetings. Advice can be shaming. “Why don’t you just say no?” (If I could have just said no, I wouldn’t be here!)

One of the most common themes when parents open up is their feelings of guilt. Many of us who have children whose behavior is negative, causing concern and tension for all involved, often blame ourselves: What did I do wrong? And since none of us have been perfect parents, it is important to accept responsibility for ways that we have truly failed. But it is also important not to think it’s all about you. Once a counselor said to me after a self-blame session, “Do you really think you have that much power over your children’s lives? They live in the world. There are other factors.”

Another important Al-Anon lesson: One of the greatest contributions you can give to your family is for you not to get pulled into the craziness, to minute by minute rebalance. Also it is essential to develop counterbalances in your daily life, practices that offer you personal refuge and happiness. Practices that interrupt the obsessive thoughts which steal your present moments.

As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says: Be aware of all the non-toothache time. For me that counterbalance has been writing. I am now working on my third novel: a trilogy-in-progress. Not writing as therapy, but writing as a place where I can dance in the moment of words. “Now” is really all we have.

8 Responses to this article

  1. dan dekker / April 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Parenting a teen is not easy especially when parents are not willing to put in the time and effort it takes. So many teens today just want their parents to spend time with them and even though they dont say it out loud they are crying for their involvement. Stay involved with your teenagers lives. This was a very informative article and I look forward to reading future posts.

  2. Avatar of Dustin
    Dustin / August 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    UNfortunately all that I could do was not enough to help my son who was struggling with drugs and alcohol. He got help from Drug Rehab for Teens and he is now clean and sober 5 years! Check out their site.

  3. Avatar of troubled teens
    troubled teens / May 25, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for giving this informative article on parenting troubled teens. I really like it. To deal with troubled behaviors of teenagers it is needed to give good guidance and support to them. There are lots of parents are admitting their troubled kid in some boarding schools or treatment center without knowing that what exactly their kid want. They should be supportive for them and provide good guidance to them.

  4. Avatar of Turning Winds
    Turning Winds / January 8, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Oftentimes saying yes and agreeing to everything your child wants makes it easier for you as a parent but in reality, this could only cause more problem. Parents sometimes forget that not everything you give your child is good for him or her, especially during their teen years – in effect, instead of teaching them good values, they become uncontrollable and troubled teens. Sometimes it’s still best to apply “tough love”.

  5. Avatar of troubled youth
    troubled youth / December 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Informative article. It is a right point to say no to some of the kids wants because this might rise to a regular habit but here we need to consider the most important point that is the love and affection on the kid of a mother makes her to do anything to her kid. But, being a responsible parent one should provide better parenting to make teens to learn the effects there itself. Most of the parents need to be more informative to provide better parenting for today’s rapid teenagers.

  6. Avatar of troubled teen
    troubled teen / September 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Parenting troubled teenagers is the most considerable issues for today’s parents. Parents have to be more cautious to observe a new kind of behavior and if it is then planning a quick solution with the help of specialized educational counselor is very important. It is helpful for troubled parents to gain most of the information on effective teen parenting.

  7. Avatar of Ginnah Howard
    Ginnah Howard / June 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Brad, I am sorry not to have responded to your comment much sooner. I am new to blogging and did not realize that the site was up and running. Yes, the great Christian thinkers have also offered strategies for staying in the present moment: ways to interrupt obsessive thinking that steals one’s day to day pursuit of a meaningful life. Recently, during a difficult time, one that threw me back into old anxious patterns,I returned to listening to good books on CD–an effective way keep the monkey mind from jumping around. I just finished listening to Michael Greenberg’s HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE, an excellent memoir about the early months of his 15 year old daughter’s descent into madness–a psychotic episode due to a bipolar disorder.

  8. Avatar of Brad Yomen
    Brad Yomen / June 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Some great advice. Often, all of the attention is put on the “what should I do” side of the equation. It’s important to balance that with maintaining a real, functional, meaningful life. Although I tend to approach a lot of parenting and “troubled teen” issues from a Christian perspective, I’ve gotta give props to the Buddhist monk for a great quotation, too!

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