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June 11, 2012

If you are at your wits end in regards to a troubled teen in your life do not throw
up your hands in disgust and relinquish the parenting of your teen to the teen
themselves. Some teenagers are experts in manipulation and might attempt to
convince you they can handle their life alone. This is not the case. Here are ways to
cope and manage life with a teen you love (who may not relate to you as though they
are being loved):

Share Your Struggles: Entrust a circle of friends and family and other parents of troubled teens with your story and your continued struggle.  Sharing your experience does NOT mean complaining about behaviors, retelling horrible stories or getting in a story loop about how bad your teenager is. Sharing means being honest with your own stories and being open to receiving support. It might look like a group of friends, it might look like a support group of strangers. Whatever group you choose, know that your angry, defiant, hurting teen is not the first in history and there are others who need you to share so they, too, know they’re not alone.

Demarcate Your Boundaries: Create crystal clear boundaries for your teenager. Boundaries include expectations and punishments. Create the list together, if that is possible. If you’ve decided something together accountability and responsibility is never left on one person’s shoulders.  If curfew is 11pm, it is always 11pm. No changing. No begging. No “Next time, I promise…”. If your teen returns at 11:01pm, they’re late and you are responsible for following through with the demarcated punishment. If you cannot be responsible for your words and promises, that very behavior will guide your child into their own irresponsibility. Do not make threats you are not prepared to actually do. Do not make promises you are not prepared to
keep.

Maintain Routine: A troubled member of the household can be extremely
disruptive to a well-functioning family. Keep daily routines consistent.
Dinner is always at 6pm. We always have breakfast out on Saturdays. Quiet
reading time in the living room before bed. Or whatever kind of routine or
traditions are understood as a family need to be maintained so a troubled
teen doesn’t get a stronghold on traditions, monopolizing your negative
attention. A consistent routine allows other family members to get a sense of
structure amidst some unexpected behaviors.

Remain Attentive: Don’t lose yourself in your problem teenager. Your
spouse, your other children, your pets, yourself…each family member has
the right to receive loving, attentive care. A troubled teen can dominate your
time and energy degrading the family unit. A problem teen definitely needs
attention but not to the degradation of others.  Having an angry, troubled young adult in your home can be terrifying, frustrating, scary, infuriating. It is imperative for you to come to your children from a place of wholeness. While they may not appreciate it now or ever, you will.

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