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Dealing with Troubled Teens

Being a teacher is no easy task. I have been teaching children for the last 6 years. I have been associated with students of the secondary and higher secondary section. Most of these students are teenagers.

Teenage, ah the confused times! Remember being a teenager? The raging hormones, the never ending crushes, the anger, the emotions, all of them at extreme levels.

Parenting teenagers is a tricky process. There is a never ending war that erupts every now and then between parents and teens. Teenagers demand freedom for everything. Teens break away from their parents and if this has happened to you, remember, this is totally natural. This may be good and bad at the same time. This emotional separation allows them to become well-adjusted adults.

During parents teachers meetings, I have parents coming up to me and complaining about how their child is become impossible to control and never listens to a word they say. They think that families become less important to children as they move into the teenage years. But that is not the case.

Teenagers go through a lot of physical as well as mental changes. Life is already being hard on them, or at least that’s what they feel. They need you to be there for them, even if they don’t openly admit it. How you deal with your teenage kids shapes your relationship with them!

I remember, when I was a teen, my friend was kind of a trouble. Her mother had initially granted her unrestricted freedom. But things later got out of hand. The mother-daughter duo had a fight regarding some issue and this caused bitterness in their relationship. She is all grown up now but she is yet not in very good terms with her mother.

Troubled teenagers are very difficult to be dealt with. In my experience, if troubled teens are not handled with care, it can cause eternal damage. Here is what you can do if your child is a troubled teen-

1.) Identify If Your Child Is A Troubled Teen
Not all teenagers are trouble. Simple fights, slamming the door, rolling the eyes are all normal behaviour. But if your child inflicts self harm, distances themselves from events, starts acting violent, adopts dangerous habits, depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc., there is some serious problem. As the parent of a troubled teen, you’re faced with even greater challenges. Your child will obviously not smoke or drink front of you but you can easily make out if they have indulged in such activities through their behaviour. For e.g., I have noticed that after smoking, a teen usually starts chewing gum to get rid of the smell, but you can still faintly smell the smoke. Also keep a track of their weekly spending.

2.) Stay calm
If your child is angry and is arguing with you, you need to stay calm. Not all teenagers will be rude or disrespectful, but some disrespect is a normal part of teenage growth and development. Your child may be rude but remember they are learning to express their independent views. Don’t lose your patience instantly. If you’re angry or upset, it is not the time to try to communicate with your teen. Wait till you’re calm and composed before starting a conversation. Having a conversation when you’re angry is just like adding fuel to the fire, lots of it.

3.) Be a friend to your child
Teenagers usually tend to make their friends the centre of their lives. They are easily influenced by their friends. This is OK if your kid’s friends have a good nature. But that’s not the case most of the time. Most of your child’s friends are teenagers themselves. And the advice they provide may make things worse. This is just like one blind person leading another. Many people think that families become less important to children as they move into the teenage years. But this is not the case.

A teen needs their family and the support it offers just as much as they needed it when they were a child. You have to be a friend to them. A friendly parent-child relationship can be very beneficial in dealing with teenagers. Be a best friend to your child to make him a confident, secure person and this will help them share their problems with you. This way you can be aware of what is going on in their lives and guide them. Keep a track of their behaviour. If they skip meals or seem lost, have a one to one chat with them.

There are a lot of issues that children do not talk to parents about. This is because they are scared that the parent will get angry and scold them. By being friends with your child, it is not only his problems that he will share with you but also his most special secrets. Spend time with your child. Go out on family outings, have a meal together every day, laugh and share stories to help your child feel connected. This translates into many happy moments spent together as a family.

4.) Find the Balance
Too much discipline or too much freedom, both are bad. It’s about finding a balance between obedience and freedom. There are thousands of parenting books out there written by great authors. But the problem is all these books adopt a different method of parenting. Books become a problem when parents use them to replace their own instinctive skills. It’s not that parenting books are bad but each child is different. A parent must know that they should have a balance between disciplining their child and giving them freedom. Don’t put them in chains. Let them explore the world a little. Trust them. Give them a little freedom. Don’t say, “No!” everytime. But too much freedom is also dangerous. Set family rules in such way that it is beneficial for both, you and your teenage child.

5.) Don’t involve others
The biggest mistake a parent does is involving an outsider. I have seen many parents complaining and comparing their child with others front of their friends and teachers. They tell their child’s complaints to other parents. They also end up telling something personal or talking about an embarrassing event that must have occurred to their child. If the child has committed a mistake, they involve their relatives to solve the issue. This one small spark can turn into a wildfire very soon that may consume your child. NEVER involve outsiders, even your close relatives, in your family matters.

If you feel helpless, consult a professional. The internet is filled with answers to various questions. Even if you are asking advice from your child’s class teacher, don’t do it front of ten people. Do it personally and keep the conversation confidential.

It’s normal for teenagers to be moody or seem uncommunicative, but they still need you. Your child still loves you and wants you to be involved in her life, even though at times her attitude, behaviour or body language might seem to say she doesn’t. The key to successfully dealing with teenagers, especially troubled ones is knowing what efforts are worth it, and which ones backfire. All the best! Happy Parenting!!!

Felicia N. is professionally a teacher but a blogger by choice. She blogs at Wedding Maniac and Confused Mango where, she blogs about her life’s journey and her passions. She has been teaching kids for the last 6 years and has also been involved in counselling activities. You can check out her blog to know more about her.