Setting boundaries can be essential.
Your instinct is to do everything possible to keep your child or teen out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, parents may lack awareness or be in denial regarding the important role that the family system plays in a teen’s risk of engaging in potentially dangerous behaviors, or in the resulting need for treatment and recovery.
Teens are regularly exposed to risk-related activities that can result in undesirable and addictive behaviors. Peer pressure and other factors such as trauma due to rape, sexual assault and bullying can make these destructive options look like an attractive escape.
The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence reported that 61 percent of a sample of 4,549 children ages 0-17 experienced or witnessed victimization in the past year. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health reported the 39 percent of high school students in 2015 stated they’d used marijuana at least once.
What can parents do to reduce the risk for their children or help them recover if they’ve already gone down a detrimental path?
- First and foremost, view the family unit as an evolving system wherein children learn decision-making and coping skills and develop emotional intelligence.
- Consult a mental health professional to address family dynamics and issues that are affecting your teen.
- Incorporate an annual family system assessment with a mental health professional.
- Keep lines of communication open at all times.
- Develop a “container” or structured rules and guidelines. This vital component of routine will greatly benefit your child and your family. Stick with it! Enforce the container; impose consequences when your teen violates the rules. Your mental health professional will help you.
- Recognize and accept that you will have to learn and adapt, along with your child.
What’s a container? Here are some examples:
- In bed by 9 pm and up at 6 am.
- Phone and other devices are placed in safe storage for bedtime.
- Emails, texts, and social media are regularly monitored.
Increase the odds of a successful future
Raising kids is a big job. Even following best practices, both parents and kids will experience struggles and setbacks, sometimes severe and costly.
It can be comforting to know that even if your teen “falls down the rabbit hole,” he or she and your entire family can emerge strengthened and more resilient moving forward together on a different trajectory. Let your child know how much you love her or him through your words and deeds as often as possible.
In addition to emotional struggles, family finances are often impacted by hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for intensive treatment for troubled teens. With experience in this area, I’ll help you and your child understand the options and connect with other reputable professionals. Contact me for details.
Article published in Main Line Parent Community Blog, May 4, 2018, by Mark Blair.