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9 Pieces of Advice to Deal With a Troubled Teen

by Haden M. 3 years ago

Parenting is hard.

Photo by Kevin Delvecchio

In present times, it seems teenagers always struggle with mental health. The last couple of years have been hard for my family, and my younger teen sister has had the worst time dealing with it. Between depression, drugs, and overall delinquency, she is finally back to being herself. I hope that everyone can benefit from what we learned the hard way.

The most important thing we learned from this is that family will always be there. My family provides every form of help I need, and I strongly believe family can solve most problems. Family makes the hard times easier, and it can be easy to forget how much they do. Therefore, family is important to have in a time of need, and when it's important, despite differences, they should always be there for each other.

1) Communication

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It is easy for someone to hide what is going on in their life if they don't talk to anyone. Talking allows them to get their emotions out and express themselves. Communicating also gives them a sense of comfort, for knowledge of what is going on reduces fear of abandonment or other possibilities.

Parents, family, and even friends should have open communication, and they should care about what is going on in their loved ones' lives. As a parent, this should be set early on. My parents were always telling me about where they were going. They always expressed how they felt about my behavior or grades, but they did it in a positive way. As an adult, I have grown a skill for communicating with others, and I am able to get my point across or explain myself in a reasonable way.

My sister didn't have as much of this, especially right before, during, and after my parents' divorce. When we found out about her struggles, we began doing more things together as a family. This can be as simple as just having a family meal. This allows them to talk about things on their mind in a positive environment and discuss schedules for the week.

Parenting is hard, and you have to work to provide for your kids. This is especially hard for those that are single parents. However, it is extremely beneficial to find even that small amount of time to have a real conversation with your child or, in my case, sibling.

Since everything happened, I started communicating with her a lot more. There isn't one thing my sister won't tell me now, and we have become extremely close. She doesn't tell my mom everything, but she still communicates well with her also. By communicating in this way, it helps the child or teen really think about things before they do them, and it gives us the chance, as a family, to help our loved one think things through.

Teenagers are extremely naive, and it's often difficult for them to make good decisions since they are still testing the waters. This also strengthens the bond and trust between family. By expressing things calmly and talking through situations, it makes it easier for them to trust you as a parent or family member. This has made a huge difference on our family and our stress.

2) Make them feel loved.

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This is one of the most important things to remember. It doesn't matter how frustrated you are as a parent, guardian, or sibling; you should always make sure they're loved and feel loved. When kids are doing drugs or consistently getting in trouble, there is almost always an underlying reason.

This could be any sort of mental health problem, stress, or other outside problems you don't know about. While it is good to have discipline, it doesn't hurt to tell them they are loved and show acts of love, which could be simple acts of care. This goes hand in hand with communication, for if they feel the love, they will feel more comfortable opening up to you.

It helps to know that no matter how disappointed you get, you won't change how you care for them. Eventually, you will be able to get to the root of the problem with enough patience. During these times of delinquency, they need the most care and comfort, and they need their family to help them.

By showing this undying love despite their wrong-doings, they learn to trust you. My sister is finally getting the help she needs. Because my mom was constantly caring for her and expressing her love every day, their bond is extremely strong now. Now my sister is willing to open up and talk about anything, and we now know the reason behind her problems. It took time and patience, and my mom had many breakdowns. However, it all paid off in the end.

3) Support them.

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This goes for anyone having life problems. If you want them to get better, you have to be there with them. These kids need a shoulder to cry on, and they need someone to help them do the right thing. If they want to try and better themselves, they need you by their side.

Going back to my experience as a teen, these are some of the scariest times. They don't know who they are yet, and they are going through an identity crisis. This is part of the reason they end up with these problems, for they are taking anything that sticks and makes them feel accepted.

Peer pressure is huge during this time for that reason, and they are going to make mistakes. They need their family there to tell them everything will be okay, and they need people there to work through it with them. When my mom found out about my sister's issues, the first thing she said was, "We'll get through this."

Sometimes that all it takes. The sense of unity and not being alone helps these kids get through their crisis, and it is something that everyone can use.

4) Be open about yourself.

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This is similar to communication, but it goes more in depth. Sometimes it is helpful to share more about yourself. People only know what you tell them, and a teenager that is struggling with life would benefit from knowing someone else understands.

You may not have the same problems they do, and you may not have experience with mental health. However, even sharing the silly stories or stories about people you know help.

If I got in trouble as a kid, I got a spanking and a lecture. Those lectures were long and exhausting, but I appreciate them so much more as an adult. While they lasted long, all of my dad's lectures ended with him relating to my situation. I got caught forging my parent's signature as a kid to hide my grades.

That was the most trouble I had ever been in, but my dad told me he used to do the same thing. He would forge my grandmother's signature to check my uncle out of school early when he was younger and reckless. While I was punished and knew it was wrong, I also felt better knowing I wasn't the only one who had done something like that.

When I got into my first car accident, my mom told me she totaled three cars before she was even 17. Since I was only 18, it made me feel much better to know it could've been worse. When my sister went through her problems, it was the same thing. We couldn't relate as easily to her, but we all knew people who could.

Overall, it helps you relate to your child more, and it helps them understand how wrong it is. No one wants to take advice from someone that seems clueless on the subject.

Therefore, if you can share your own problems, it makes your advice more trustworthy. It also helps them understand your feelings about the situation more.

5) Be firm in your decisions.

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As a parent, it can be difficult to punish the ones you love the most. However, there has to be discipline and rules. Without rules or laws, there would be chaos, and there would be no control over right and wrong.

Your kids need to know what will happen if they misbehave, and they need to know you aren't afraid to follow through with punishments. Kids need to always have a healthy fear of their parents, and if you relax on them, even once, they will take advantage of you.

This especially applies to children going through a rough patch. If my dad said I would be grounded for hitting my brother, I knew he would ground me for hitting my brother.

My mom has always struggled with this, but she especially struggled with my sister. With her being the baby, my mom hated punishing her, and it didn't help that she was emotionally troubled after the divorce. Therefore, my mom never truly put her foot down, and this caused my sister to keep rebelling. She also learned how to manipulate my mom to let up on her punishments.

This isn't an awful thing, for parents are doing it out of love. Although, if you really want your child to recover or get better, you have to be unwavering in your punishments. Don't fill your kids with empty threats they know you won't go through with. You need to explain what will happen, and you need to do it when it's needed.

6) Contact help.

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This one is different for everyone. For minor circumstances, a person might just need to contact a friend or family member for advice and support. It helps to talk things out and rationalize with someone else, and feedback from an outside source is always useful.

When a person is in the middle of a situation with their pride and joy, it can be hard to think straight, and this can lead to a lot of mistakes, like empty threats. Everyone should find someone willing to listen to them, and this will help parents be more relaxed when it comes time to deal with their child. A parent might need to seek counseling and therapy. This could be therapy for them, therapy for the kid, or even family therapy.

Again, it is good to talk things out, and a professional opinion is better than a friend's. These therapists and counselors are completely unbiased and can possibly provide real treatment. This is for slightly more severe cases, but even minor cases can use this method. In this day and age, therapy is almost a must.

The most drastic scenarios might need something more heavy duty. This could require a rehab, mental hospital, or even the law, such as halfway homes for delinquents.

No parent ever wants to do this to their child, but sometimes there is no choice. Unfortunately, our situation required this more drastic approach to fixing the problem, but we were lucky that my sister wanted it. She wanted to get help, and she wanted to be normal again. When she expressed this desire to get better, we took immediate action to make it happen.

It was the best decision we have ever made, and I have never seen my sister more happy. These are stressful times for the whole family. You can't be afraid to get help for yourself or for your kid if needed.

7) Rewards!

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A reward system is the last thing on a parent's mind when they are dealing with a troubled child, but it is also an important thing. Rewarding them with love, treats, gifts, or even their favorite meal motivates them to stay happy and healthy.

It keeps them from backtracking into bad situation they came from, and they are more likely to obey you.

For my sister, every week she stayed in line she got a reward. We would do something she wanted to do, and she had full reign. It doesn't have to be prizes either. A reward can be as simple as telling them they did a good job when they do something right. By doing this, you give them the support and show of love they need, and they have a better chance of remaining on the right path.

8) Don't give up.

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These times are frustrating, and you will consider forgetting about the problem. However, forgetting the problem does not make it go away. In fact, the problem will only get worse without care.

It might seem easy to pretend it's not happening, and my mom and dad tried the same thing for a while. This does nothing for the parent or the child though. The only way to fix the issue is to push right through it. It will get hard, and there will be many tears and fights. It will be worth it, though, for it gives your family the chance to come back together.

9) Take care of yourself.

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This is the last and most important advice I can give you. If you are not mentally and physically healthy, how can you expect your kid to be? Lead by example and get the help needed for you or for them.

I've known parents to be addicted to drugs that try to keep their kids sober. It is impossible to convince a teenager that something is wrong when you are also doing it. Also, if you are not mentally okay, it can skew your judgement.

This can cause overreactions, or it can cause you to not care as much as you maybe should. Your child needs your full mental capacity to get through this tough time, and you need to fully take everything in and fix it. You also don't want to bring yourself down while bringing your kid up. Therefore, the most important thing you can do for you or your kid is to take care of yourself.

Haden M.
Haden M.
Read next: Understanding the Effects of Addiction on the Family
Haden M.
See all posts by Haden M.

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