Advice for Parents of Teenagers

As teenagers begin to develop into adults with their own identity, they may assert their independence by displaying unpredictable behavior. Your previously amiable child may turn into a moody adolescent who defiantly slams doors and refuses to listen to you. Even though this conduct may come as a shock, most parents don’t realize that it is typical of many teens.

Parenting a teenager is never easy nor does it come with a guidebook. You constantly worry about who your child is hanging out with or despair over endless arguments. You struggle with your teen’s irritability and impulsiveness. If you have a teen living under your roof, you may be wondering how you can keep an eye on them and prevent them from getting into trouble.

Despite the challenges, it’s important to remember that teens still look to their parents for guidance, love, acceptance and approval. With that in mind, here are some tips for parents on how to help their son or daughter successfully transition into adulthood and what to do in case they get into trouble.

Typical Teen or Troubled Teen?

Adolescence typically involves experimentation and rebellion. Remember though, no two teens are the same. An essential step for parents should be to determine what is “normal” for their child and recognize when he or she deviates from that. While some adolescents don’t undergo dramatic changes between middle and high school, others may act out in various ways, like getting body piercings or dyeing their hair.

But when does typical teen behavior turn into troubled teen behavior? For many teens, experimentation is a part of building their identity. For example, most young people will drink alcohol and smoke a cigarette at some point, with many even trying marijuana. However, when drinking or taking drugs becomes a habit, it may be an outward expression of underlying problems, especially when accompanied by issues at school or home.

A troubled teen may display behavior that is beyond what is expected or normal for them. There are warning signs to look for when it comes to concerning behavior in teens that may lead to legal trouble. If your adolescent is violent, drinking excessively, threatening or bullying others, skipping school, being cruel to animals, obsessively playing violent video games, shoplifting or engaging in other risky, out-of-character actions, it may be a cry for help. You may find that intervention is necessary if substance abuse or mental health issues like depression are involved.

Friends can also have a big influence on teens. As a result, it is vital for your child to find a peer group in which to fit in. As friends become more important to your child, it is natural that he or she may gradually withdraw from you. Nonetheless, make sure you know the basics such as where your teen is going and who they are spending time with. Watch out for red flags, such as your teen’s group of friends encouraging negative behavior through peer pressure or refusing to follow reasonable rules. Hanging out with the right crowd can help your adolescent stay out of harmful situations. 

Common Types of Crimes Among Teens

From underage drinking to drug possession, there are many different ways teens can run into trouble with the law. In an effort to gain freedom from their parents’ watchful eyes, high schoolers may start going out more and spending time with friends. The newfound independence can overwhelm some young people and lead to poor decision-making.

Teens can end up taking risks that most adults wouldn’t, leading to fights, sexual assaults, vandalism, gang activities, petty theft, property crimes and drunk driving. Unfortunately, many teens don’t realize how little they have to do to be charged with a crime. The potential consequences of getting into legal trouble could have far-reaching impact into the future. Entering the court system could cost your teen their freedom and affect driving privileges, along with hurting their ability to get student loans or even a job. 

What may be a one-time mistake or lapse in judgment can lead to an arrest. A criminal prosecution can be devastating to a young adult’s future in the era of social media and online background checks. And while, as parents, our love and concern for our children lead us to believe that the lesson is learned upon an arrest, law enforcement officers and the court system often take a different view.

There are instances in which you can make what happened into a life lesson and resolve matters for your son or daughter. However, it is also important for parents to realize there is a limit to how much they can help their teen, especially if they no longer live at home. If a teen gets into trouble over and over again, there may be an underlying problem that must be addressed. 

Communicating with Your Teen

While it may be tempting for parents to turn away from their teen as their behavior changes, having an open line of communication is essential to building trust. Having frank and open conversations with your adolescent about drugs, alcohol and other issues is one way to ensure things don’t get out of hand.

Even though your relationship with your teen may not be perfect, showing them that you care can make all the difference. Connecting with your teen requires a sensitive approach. For example, if you see your son or daughter making a mistake, you can tell them what you think without lecturing them about what to do.

Listen to your teen without judging, criticizing or interrupting. If you treat your teen the same way you would treat an equal, there are better chances of them responding like an adult and asking for your advice. Remember, successfully communicating with your adolescent will take time and effort, so don’t be discouraged with any initial rejection.

Set Boundaries and Create Structure

Maintaining structure and setting limits are essential when there is a teen living under your roof, even if it’s just on weekends. Teens may argue with you about discipline or rebel against rules, but that doesn’t mean they are not necessary. Routines like regular mealtimes and bedtimes help a teen feel secure and avoid trouble.

For parents, there is a delicate balance between giving their teens just enough freedom and putting at least basic restrictions in place, including discipline. Make sure your teen knows what your expectations are and that there are consequences to violating them. When boundaries are crossed, tell your teen what they did and how you plan to discipline them. As the parent, it is your duty to enforce household rules, especially when you know your son or daughter will overreact to a punishment.

When your teen lashes out, allow them to retreat to a safe space to cool off. Avoid demanding apologies or explanations when they are angry as it could escalate the situation.

Get Professional or Legal Help When Needed

While parents can do everything in their power to try to keep their teen out of trouble, sometimes professional intervention is necessary to identify the root of their problems and get help in dealing with them. If you notice red flag behaviors, consult a mental health professional to ensure your teen receives the support and treatment they need.

On the other hand, if your teen is in serious legal trouble, one of the best ways to protect them is to hire a criminal defense lawyer. The complex nature of New York laws, the crime committed, and the potential penalties are just a few of the reasons hiring a qualified attorney may be necessary.

New York criminal defense lawyer Peter Brill of the Brill Legal Group has handled many different types of juvenile cases. He has received plenty of calls from worried parents, asking for assistance when their child was facing legal trouble. The Brill Legal Group has extensive experience fighting criminal charges for young people. We know the ins and outs of the legal system and can help you handle a potentially serious situation before it gets out of hand, hopefully avoiding a criminal record.

The combination of a parent’s guidance and skilled legal counsel can help a young person avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Keep in mind that ultimately, every situation and relationship is different. There is no single so-called right way to parent a teen. Your teen’s problems are not a sign that you have somehow failed as a parent. Instead of assigning blame, focus on connecting with your teen and their needs.

If your teen is facing legal trouble, contact the Brill Legal Group right away to discuss your situation.



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Just when I was getting discouraged and was at my wits end trying to find the right attorney for my case, a family member recommended Mr. Brill. He did not disappoint. Mr. Brill and his team are diligent, very professional, encouraging and honest every step of the way. Highly recommended.

- A.S.