Do you have any ideas on how to deal with a teenager who has changed her whole attitude towards life? She no longer wants to attend school and has started smoking. I don’t know what to do.
Not every parent is in this position, but those who are know they are faced with an intense few years ahead of them. Watching other families interact happily and hearing about other teenagers’ achievements can be heartbreaking for them.
I firstly want to say that “It’s not your fault” and that “Doing your best” is enough. Parents, especially mothers, can literally beat themselves up so much they render themselves incapable to parent.
It is usually a combination of things which cause teenagers to disengage with life and family. Factors such as health, personality, intelligence, friendship groups, childhood trauma, family instability, and drug and alcohol use, especially when combined, can definitely have an impact.
While there are no easy answers, I’d like to suggest this 10 point checklist. Many of you will be doing all ten of these things, while others will be able to identify areas you can improve on.
1. Know their friends, even if you don’t approve of them. As the saying goes, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.
2. Don’t ever, ever tolerate drugs, including marijuana. Those families who have lost their kids to drugs always tell me they wish they had come in harder and faster in the beginning.
3. Circuit breakers are important. Try going away for the weekend, especially if their friends are a big influence on them. You can talk to teenagers better when they are away from their friends.
4. Remember that rules without relationship will only breed rebellion. Try and fight one battle at a time and ignore the things that don’t really matter.
5. Love them unconditionally. Your love is irreplaceable. Family is so, so important during this time. Ramp up the extended family visits and special events.
6. Be fun even if they aren’t giving you much to smile about. If you aren’t fun they won’t want to be around you. Teenagers often correlate their parents with stress and can’t handle the extra pressure.
7. Realise that for many teenagers, poor choices will cease as they grow in maturity. In the meantime a mentor or professional may be able to brace subjects you can’t. Every teenager deserves a mentor who is focused on seeing them successfully transition to adulthood.
8. Keeping them engaged at school is the highest priority. It is the most preventative factor in keeping them off drugs and away from crime. This is something I’d work hard at. If they won’t engage at school find an alternative learning program quickly.
9. Use their smart phone to your advantage. You can install software on teenagers’ phones which track their whereabouts. I am in favour of this if you are fearing for your teenager’s safety.
10. Personal purpose is the only thing that will enable them to make good choices in the long term. We, as parents, can only say no to them for so long. Focus on what they are good, at not what they are doing wrong.
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