Derailed teenager, education and responsibility?

Some teenagers go crazy. They become violent, use alcohol and drugs, become depressed and engage in reckless behavior. As a parent, you are understandably concerned about this behavior. Fortunately, most teenagers turn out okay in the end, but unfortunately there are also some who don’t turn out okay. They end up in crime, die prematurely or suffer from serious psychological complaints for the rest of their lives. How do you, as a parent, deal with a derailed teenager?

It’s not the upbringing

Parents often feel guilty when their child has behavioral problems. This is further reinforced by the Dutch culture and environment. It is very easy to point the finger at the parents, unfortunately also by fellow educators such as teachers and the school and even by professional care providers. It probably depends on the upbringing. In many cases that is complete nonsense. Yes, children change during puberty. They become rebellious, seem unable to tolerate anything from you and think everything you say is nonsense. Derailed teenagers do not respond by slamming doors, stomping upstairs and occasionally using a swear word. They exhibit unacceptable behavior, such as violence, self-harm, drinking, soft drug and/or hard drug use, sex with changing partners, lying, theft, truancy, etc. They refuse to accept boundaries and ignore rules.

Children are not robots. It’s not like you can program them and then what you put into them will come out. There are many factors that influence the development of the child, such as experiences he or she has in life, friends and peers and, last but not least, the child itself. How else do you explain families where every child is doing just fine and has become a responsible adult, except for one child. The so-called black sheep that is addicted or has turned to crime.

Anger regulation

Both self-harm and anger directed at you and other family members are unacceptable. You need to seek help for your teenager and this can be in the form of aggression regulation. This can be through a martial art where he or she learns where the boundaries lie, or through behavioral therapy. Often behind an aggressive teenager there is an insecure teenager, so resilience training could also help your teenager to deal with his aggression in the right way. See what suits your child. Doing (a coach who uses sports) often helps better than talking.

Check your own behavior

You have no influence on your teenager’s behavior and you cannot change it. The only thing you can change is your own behavior. So make sure you keep control of yourself. If you feel stress coming and are afraid that you will lose control of yourself, leave the conversation. This is not the time to communicate with your teen. This does not mean that the issue has been resolved, just that you will come back to it at a later time. Make sure you are there for your teen and try to leave your anger behind. When he or she makes a conciliatory gesture, thank him or say that you like it. Your relationship will not benefit from rejecting a conciliatory gesture. Few derailed teenagers will come to you and say they’re sorry.

Make sure your child gets his sleep

Teenagers often go to bed late and even then they take their mobile phone, tablet or laptop with them. Limit the time your teen can use the internet. The night is for sleeping and not for playing with a cell phone. It is really not crazy to make an agreement with your teenager to leave the cell phone downstairs when he or she goes to bed. And don’t be influenced by arguments such as using the phone as an alarm clock, I can’t sleep without music and that’s why I use my cell phone. A radio alarm clock is very suitable for music and getting up on time, you really don’t need a cell phone for that.

Don’t do it alone

If you don’t have a backup, dealing with a derailed teenager is impossible. So don’t do it to yourself. Break the taboo and talk about it with people around you. The neighbors have of course heard something for a long time, although they don’t speak to you about it. Other people also notice that your teenager reacts strangely and that there are tensions in your relationship. Break this open, tell them what’s going on and ask for help. This help can consist of anything: a shoulder to cry on, a place to stay for the teenager, someone who occasionally asks your teenager how things are going and thinks with you about solutions. Your assistants will not become co-parents, but it can help if someone asks your teenager what he or she could do for him or her to ensure that he or she is doing better.

Don’t forget to also seek professional help. Visit the GP and ask for a referral to Tactus for addiction care, to the Mental Health Service (GGZ) for psychological problems. Don’t settle for the first available mental health care. Contact your insurance company and ask for advice. Not every mental health service has the same reputation.

Leave responsibility where it belongs

Of course it is tempting to take responsibility. If you hear at parent evening that your child always carries the wrong books, you can pack his bag yourself. It is wiser to offer to help with this. If your teen doesn’t want this, this is his choice. Schools in particular often want to place responsibility on the parents and of course you can call your child extra and encourage him to get out of bed when he has to go to school. But that’s all, he has to respond to this himself. You are not responsible for that. Which of course does not mean that this behavior has no consequences. Do not lie to your child when the school calls to explain why he is not there. Just tell the truth, no matter how difficult. Behavior simply has consequences. When you ensure that your child avoids those consequences, you maintain his behavior.

Have patience

You often do your best with derailed teenagers, without noticing any improvement. It makes you despondent, but eventually your teenager will probably also emerge from these difficult years. He or she just needs time. Of course you become despondent when help doesn’t seem to work and when your teen continues to resist normal rules of behavior, but he will get through this one day. Continue to have faith in this.