Helping Troubled Teens | Positive Relationship Building Tips

Helping troubled teens requires positive relationships. Parents must recognize the key relationships necessary to build a teen.

Helping Troubled Teens

It is impossible to predict how a troubled teen will react to residential treatment, but the immediate lifestyle change may cause the teen to resist. To maximize the positive results of a residential program, parents must recognize the need for positive relationships. After recognizing the need for care, parents play a crucial role in helping troubled teens recognize and support positive relationships.

Stephen G. Biddulph, M.A. identifies the following four important relationships that will ultimately determine the success of treatment for troubled teens.

(1) Teen’s Relationship With Self: A misbehaving or troubled teen is often a discouraged and angry teen. Self-esteem and self-confidence are usually low. They are often confused, hopeless, and misdirected. During treatment, the acquisition of self-esteem, self-confidence, and a desire to improve must be done independent of parents and family, although the continuing support provided by loved ones is essential. All the relationships in treatment should promote a teen’s self-esteem and self-mastery. Successful parents recognize this and help their child create their own psychological autonomy (the ability to think and act responsibly for themselves).

(2) Parent/Child Relationship: At the time of admission, the relationship between the child and parent may seem pretty stressed. The teen has been placed in treatment partially to try and recover the relationship that they once had with their parent. Successful parents recognize that they cannot force or rush the redevelopment of a relationship with their teen. Rather, they recognize that a healthy relationship with their teen is an outcome of the development of other relationships. Successful parents show unconditional love, but require the child to earn their respect and trust. They play a support role, not a control role. Successful parents also recognize that for a healthy relationship to develop between them and their child, they must work on their own issues, even as their child works on his/her problems. If the parent finds themselves trying to control treatment, not following the professional

guidance of treatment staff, and disregarding treatment protocols, then, the parent is most likely too enmeshed with their child, and they are actually harming treatment.

(3) Parent/ Staff Relationships: Successful parents recognize that the relationship they establish with the treatment staff will ultimately affect the quality of relationship they have with their child. Form a strong, supportive bond at the beginning of treatment with the child’s professional care-giving team. The parent-staff relationship is especially vulnerable in the early phases of care when trust and confidence is just beginning to grow. This is because the child will attempt to sabotage and undermine their parent’s

trust in the staff so that they can manipulate their way out of responsibility and growth. If a child can create distrust in the minds of parents for treatment staff, they can successfully jam the treatment process and escape accountability.

(4) Teen/Staff Relationship: The rapport that develops between a child and staff is critical to growth. If a relationship of trust and mutual respect does not form, it is highly unlikely that positive growth will occur. For this reason, successful parents do not resent positive relationships that form between their child and staff, and they do everything possible to promote and encourage this relationship. Parents that rescue their children by interfering with this relationship diminish the potential for their child’s true growth. Wise parents do not necessarily buy into their teen’s complaints, but encourage them to work it out with their team staff. Develop from the beginning a trusting relationship with the staff. Make the staff earn trust, but also listen to them and help them when at all possible.

Recognizing the importance of the aforementioned relationships and further maintaining them ensure a higher probability of success with helping troubled teens.

+Alecsy Christensen