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To the Struggling Parents of Troubled Teenagers: You have Options!

The cycle seems endless.  Your child is angry and that anger manifests itself as defiance – disruptive or even abusive behavior.  You worry; you feel stress and are not sure what to do.  Then YOU get angry, etc. etc. – and so the downward spiral of antagonism between parent and child continues.

How to break out?  It’s of course critical to try to break this negative cycle that can, if left unmanaged, ruin lives – yours, that of other members of your family, and of course your child’s life.  So the stakes are high – and the path towards some type of relief, toward a state of sanity – or just equilibrium! – is not clear.

Take heart, there are options for you.  First of all, it’s important that you, as a parent or guardian, realize you are not alone.  There are many like you trying their best to cope with a troubled teen.  The teen years are never problem-free of course; this is by now a total cliché. But dealing with a teen who’s troubled in the clinical sense represents an altogether different challenge.

Step 1, then, is recognition of the scope of the problem: realizing you have a teen who is in fact troubled to the point of needing clinical help – some kind of guidance or therapy. It’s important at this stage to step back.  Try not to “judge” yourself or your teen.  Just be cognizant that you’ve got a troubled teen – and that the “trouble” is not something you have necessarily caused or for that matter one you can fix on your own.

Step 2: Realize that many parents are in your shoes — and that there are options out there both troubled teens and their parents.  Your teen needs help and the good news is that you have many options to get that help for him or her – and in the process, get some relief yourself.  You need not be subject to the corrosive cycle of counterproductive engagement with your teen that has been the source of lot of heartache and disruption in your life.

Step 3: Talk to someone – preferably a qualified, accredited child psychologist or psychiatrist.  A consultation may be an expense, but it’s worth every penny to get professional guidance and explore the variety of options available to you and to your troubled teen.  This step is really about getting a proper assessment of your teen’s emotional/ behavioral issues, and beginning to determine a strategy for dealing with these issues.

Step 4: Don’t be afraid to take action.  Be afraid NOT to take action!  Non-action is lose-lose.  It means you’ll be continually cast in the role of your teen’s antagonist.  It means your teen will continue to “act out” and bring grief to him or herself as well as his/her family.

Step 5: Be open-minded.  Really, it’s quite refreshing to know that there’s a treatment path out there for your troubled teen.  You need not see this path as one you must “impose” on your teen – but rather as one you and your teen embark on together – one that will ultimately bring the two of you closer together.

Keep in mind that the world is full of troubled teens who need clinical help. Luckily, we live in an age when the stigma of emotional difficulty or of psychological disorder (call it what you will) is gradually disappearing.  Diagnostic capabilities have advanced tremendously as have treatment options, ranging from online counseling, to private or group therapy, to advanced clinical treatment, to apanoply of pharmacological options. One path is to find a good therapeutic boarding school for your teen (Turning Winds Academic Institute for instance, is such school, and has the highest clinical as well as academic ratings). Such a school can give your teen a chance to interact with trained clinicians and similarly troubled peers in a structured and supportive environment, away from home.
Sometimes giving your teen “space” – away from the complications of home and family (or home community) is liberating for a troubled teen.    The key is to remember that as a parent you can find a productive path of emotional healing for your teen.  And getting your child help is actually the best way to help yourself and the rest of your family find the relief – that state of equilibrium – that has been lost to you and them for some time now.

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