Dealing with Teen Issues

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Teens undoubtedly have a way of conjuring up a whole new set of challenges for parents. New issues and crises seem to present themselves consistently and often without warning.

Some of the more common issues that parents of teenagers must learn to deal with include such problems as eating disorders, substance use and abuse, defiance, promiscuity, running away, law breaking, depression, bullying, negative peer influences, and issues related to image and appearance (to name a few).

Most parents would give just about anything to avoid this long and difficult developmental stage. The strain and stress of these teen issues can wreck havoc on any family and can often result in a complete breakdown of the relationship between the affected teen and the rest of his or her family (especially with regards to the parents).

Dealing with Teen Issues Preventative Measures
The first step to overcoming potential problems is to use preventative measures. The best way to do this is to communicate effectively and often with your teen. Talk about issues before they arise and spend time discussing solutions to potential problems. Keep an eye out for red flags and take action when you notice them. Don't allow your child to act as though there is "nothing wrong". Go with your gut. If something seems wrong, then chances are there is something wrong. Ask questions.

Another way to take preventative measures is to equip your child with a useful set of coping skills. Teach your teenager the benefits of using such techniques as thought-stopping, self-soothing, positive self-talk, problem-solving, and relaxation techniques. There are many books that discuss these skills in-depth and also many places on the internet where you can learn these valuable skills (our book The Parent Coach Plan has a section that addresses these techniques).

Reactive Measures
If it is too late to use preventative measures, then reactive measures will most likely need to be taken. There are too many reactive measures to list, but I will briefly discuss a few of the options.

Implement a strict behavior management program in your home. The Parent Coach Plan is one such option. It includes a simple discipline plan that can be customized to fit the specific needs of your child. It can be found at
Try using behavior contracts with your teen. Behavior contracts will allow you to provide an environment for your teen that is structured and that has clearly defined expectations. Two sites that I would recommend if you are interested in using behavior contracts are (also includes a teen discipline plan) or (also includes a number of other useful parenting tools).
Consider therapy for your teen. Therapy is especially recommended if your teenager is dealing with serious issues such as substance use, eating disorders, depression, or any other problem that warrants a more intensive approach.
Residential treatment is an option for teens that need more intensive therapy. Most programs offer a highly structured environment that addresses issues both individually and in group settings. This form of treatment is expensive and can take many days, weeks, or even months to complete. Insurance will often pay for this intervention.
Boot Camps offer a very highly structured environment that focuses primarily on discipline. These programs are often run in a militaristic manner and are typically for teens that are overly defiant or that have problems with the law. Many courts will allow this intervention as an alternative to detention or jail.
Hospitalization is the measure of last resort. Consider using this option if your teen has demonstrated that he is a danger to himself or to others. Call the police if necessary.
Jail is certainly an option but not one that most parents would want to utilize. It is appropriate though, in many cases.

There are other options available when it comes to dealing with your teen's issues. The easiest way to decide what course of action is best for you and your teen is to talk to others that are in the same situation or talk to someone that is familiar with the process of seeking help (school counselor, psychologist, hotline, support group, etc.). After speaking with one source of advice or information, I would recommend getting a second opinion as well.