How to Deal With Troubled Teens

by Barb Nefer

When you have a troubled teenager in the family, it can be difficult to know what to do to help her. You might try to talk to her and give advice, but she might seem resentful. Troubled teens must be handled carefully. If you honor their independence and give them gentle guidance, you are more likely to have success. Even if you have to lay down boundaries, making it a collaborative process can help your troubled teen buy in.

Allow the troubled teen to talk to you freely. Promise him that you will not get angry or upset. It might be difficult, but teens will shut down quickly if you get emotional or judgmental. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind before starting the conversation.

Reflect what the teen is saying. Listen to what she says, then repeat it to her using different words. This shows her that you are paying attention. It also gives her a chance to correct you if you heard something incorrectly.

Ask questions rather than giving advice. Once the troubled teen has shared his situation with you, you might be tempted to tell him how to resolve it. Many teens resent this, as they see it as being told what to do, and the Family Education website says they usually have a need to feel independent. Instead, ask questions that are carefully worded to guide the teen to the best choice. For example, he might vent about friends who are pressuring him to make bad choices. Rather than telling him to drop those friends, ask questions like, "Do you think real friends should put pressure on one another?" and "Why do you think they are doing that if they are your friends?"

If you must set boundaries for the troubled teen, seek her input rather than simply laying down the law. She will be more likely to agree with them and abide by them if you involve her in setting them up. She will also think you respect her rather than being an adversary. The Parenting Teens website says most teens have a great need to feel respected.

Summarize the conversation, and if any decisions or agreements were made, repeat them to make sure both you and your troubled teenager have the same understanding. This will eliminate any chance of misinterpretation.

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  • Even if you give your troubled teenager a safe environment in which to open up and talk freely, he might not take advantage of it. Many teens are reluctant to share certain things with other family members. If needed, allow your teen to talk to a counselor or therapist. Having an objective, confidential listener might help him open up.

About the Author

Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."

Photo Credits

  • Dealing with troubled teens is a challenge.