When to step in and intervene — and how — is not always clear. There aren't always straightforward answers to a parent's frantic questions. I'll start, though, with two responses to the query about what to do when your teenager is out of control.
First, seek help sooner rather than later. Parents often wait too long, hoping the situation will fix itself. Sometimes things are resolved on their own, but sometimes they only get worse. You don't have to reach for a therapist at the first sign of trouble, but you do need to reach out. If the level of help you enlist successfully addresses the situation, great. If it doesn't do the job, seek the next level.
Second, find assistance when your teenager's behavior is . . .
- intense enough and on the verge of dangerous, or
- marked by enough major behavioral and personality changes that can't be otherwise defined, or
- disruptive enough to everyday routine that he or she isn't operating as he or she normally can.
I emphasize enough in each of these three statements, realizing it's a very subjective term. If you're concerned, yet uncertain about your ability to resolve the problem, it's time to get help.
This leads us to what may be the hardest question of all. Parents often ask, "Will my son (or daughter) ever turn around? What are the chances?" When I hear this, I know it's not an intellectual "Give me the numbers" question. It's a heartfelt "Give me hope" plea.
The answer I always give is, "I don't know."
But I follow it with what I do know:
- It's not your fault.
- Your teen has made his or her own choices, for reasons known or unknown.
- All the work, time and intervention you've put into this teenager of yours increase the odds that he or she finally will come around.
God is bigger than these problems. That may sound like a cliché, but there's no time for clichés when your teenager is heading down a path of self-destruction. I really mean that God is bigger. Yes, He will allow your teenager to make stupid choices. Yet He is interested in the life and salvation of your son or daughter. He sees and knows. And He's bigger than all the stupid choices, dangerous behaviors and pain.
If your teen is involved in at-risk behaviors, see our list of links that will encourage and equip you in this season.