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Risky Behaviors: Can you trust your teen again?

4:30 PM, Jun. 21, 2013  |  Comments
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It's not easy being a teenager, nor is it easy being the parent of a teenager. As children get older, teaching them how to stay safe can get complicated because teens are exposed to many situations involving drugs and alcohol where bad decisions might be made.

If your teen makes a bad decision - whether it's alcohol or drugs or shoplifting or inappropriate sexual activity or something else - you may be wondering if you'll ever be able to trust that person again. When trust is broken it usually happens when you give your teen responsibility or freedom that is misused. But there are steps parents can take to mend relationships and restore trust.

? Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Don't blame or lecture your teen. Help your child acknowledge that he or she made a bad decision and what can be done to make better decisions in the future. This is an important step in helping them learn a valuable lesson.

? Get the facts. If friends were involved, you'll want to call other parents to see what they know about the situation. For instance, if there was drinking at a party, you'll want to know who was involved and how the alcohol got there. It's important to gather all the details that you can.

? Listen to what your teen is telling you. After you've gathered the facts, let your teen explain what happened. Be sure to ask what prompted the risky behavior. Did your teen drink or do drugs because his or her friends were doing it? Or is something more serious going on in your teen's life? The young people I meet in treatment tell me that it's not peer pressure that turns them to drugs or alcohol. They describe it as numbing the pain from a loss or a seemingly inescapable problem. No matter the situation, make sure your teen takes responsibility for his or her actions, yet be ready to offer help and support if something more serious is going on. If sex is involved, your child's health may be at stake. Ask a medical professional for advice.

? Be prepared to follow through with consequences. It's important to give a consequence that creates clear and unambiguous expectations and allows your teen to learn from mistakes. Have a plan in place for how to handle your teen's behavior. As trust is broken, your child needs to understand that he or she may enjoy fewer freedoms until trust is restored. For example, if you catch your teen drinking and driving, explain that he or she abused the freedom to use a car and has lost the privilege to drive it. As trust is rebuilt, your teen can earn those privileges back.

When your child engages in a risky behavior, try not to react emotionally or get angry. Instead, help them take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences.

Learning to trust your teen again can be challenging. But with a plan in place you can regain trust. Look at the positives of how your teen is doing. Maybe your teen is more responsible or now there is better communication. Always be sure to recognize when something goes right. Remember to have your own support system in place for those overwhelming days.

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