What do you do when nothing works with your teenager? Strict curfews, grounding and harsh discipline don’t work, and if you ever try to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them, they shut you out. You’re left frustrated and devastated as they continue to go against the rules and harm themselves and their lives.
Why do some teenagers act out while others seem to go through life without causing much trouble? There are a lot of reasons, and sometimes, they have nothing to do with the parents. Although they’re far from unintelligent, teenagers lack the processing skills necessary to understand the deeper significance of their emotions and make certain decisions. Adolescents often have “tunnel vision” that causes them to be more reactive than proactive, leading to impulsive decisions that can have life-long consequences.
If you’re at a loss and need help reaching your troubled teen, here are a few suggestions.
Talk to Their Doctor
Your child’s doctor may be able to help you figure out what to do. If they are acting out as a result of trauma, your doctor can refer you to a psychologist or other mental health professional that can identify what’s going on.
In some cases, a teen may be a danger to themselves or others and be involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. This is an extreme measure, but some parents have no other choice to protect their child.
Evaluate Their Mental Health
The teenage years are the age for the onset of many mental health disorders including borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While many diagnoses are made in early adulthood, symptoms can show throughout adolescents.
A lack of impulse control, extreme mood swings, emotional instability, social isolation and risk-seeking behaviors can all indicate a mental illness. Pay attention to your teen’s general composition. Are they just acting out for attention, or does their entire disposition seem unrecognizable? Do they seem to show any concern for themselves or remorse when they’ve done something wrong?
The difference between teen angst and mental illness won’t always be easy to identify, but speaking to a school therapist or a psychologist can help you gain some insight and understand what cues to look out for.
Speak With a Lawyer
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you can’t prevent the worst from happening. Teens who are dead set on doing whatever they want will break the law and wind up in jail no matter how hard their parents tried to help them. When this happens, the first thing you need to do is speak with a lawyer.
A legal professional can help navigate your child’s case and potentially connect them with the mental health professionals they need to get better. Prior to a trial, a mental health screening can provide a potential diagnosis that results in treatment to help your teenager.
Lawyers can also help you find a good bail bond agent and understand the ramifications of adolescent incarceration. If your teen is facing jail time, having a lawyer can help reduce their sentence and possibly get them sent to a rehabilitation center instead of prison.
Communicate as well and as often as you can. Even though your teen might be unreachable right now, what you say has a major impact on their self-esteem. You may not be able to change your teen’s actions overnight or make them act like they care, but the way you handle their behavior now will play a large role on how they develop and view themselves in the future. Be there for them. Make sure they know you love and care for them.