Parenting troubled teens is difficult. It’s easy to think that all troubled teens are the same but troubled teen boys are very different than troubled teen girls. At this age they share problems such as social media, peer pressure, risky behavior, and temptations with drugs and alcohol. However how they navigate those problems depends on their gender.
Some General Guidelines
When dealing with troubled teens, reaching for compassion first is difficult in the face of a snarling, out-of-control teenager. If you can take a breather and muster some compassion it might keep the situation from getting out of hand. Try to remember it’s the behavior you do not like but you love your teenager. Try to step away from your own feelings and see your teen as objectively as possible. Whatever pain he or she is experiencing is likely at least part of the cause of some of their delinquent behavior. If you can hold that perspective their behavior will feel less personal. It will also help you see them as individuals first and a person in crisis second.
Dealing With Daughters
For the teenage girl the very emotions that will someday make them great women work against them as teenagers. Typically teen girls are much more sensitive to personal conflict and they have a tendency to internalize that conflict. As such teenage girls are much more prone to depression then teen boys. Teenage girls are looking more to be part of the group rather than singled out for their talents, skills, and intelligence. Teen girls are more likely to express themselves emotionally than to act out violently. Girls also have the additional challenge of dealing with PMS which can make their natural emotional response heightened by hormones. Helping your troubled teen daughter can be as simple as playing on her natural inclination to be emotional. Service, spirituality, personal relationships, and compassion can become sources of strength when girls are taught it is okay to express themselves in those ways.
One of the most important things you can remember about boys is they are great copycats. Where girls would learn what not to do by watching other girls and women; boys learn how to act by watching other boys and men. With boys monitoring aggression becomes very important. Since they are naturally inclined to aggressive behavior you have to make every attempt to limit their exposure to violence. Helping boys learn to express their feelings and thoughts is also important. However you cannot push them in the same way you can push girls. You have to take a much gentler approach and let him know you’re ready to listen when he’s ready to talk.
Regardless of gender when your teenager reaches the troubled stage the very best thing you can do is find your teen the help they need. Parenting a troubled teen isn’t easy and neither is reaching out for help. Too many troubled teens go without help because their parents can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to find help. The depth of their issues will dictate the type of help they need. That help can range from counseling to therapeutic boarding school. Parents wherever your teen falls on that spectrum please understand you have not failed. Teenagers are hard work. Troubled teenagers are even harder. Just know that there is help out there for you and them.