Teenagers Who Break the Law: 4 Suggestions & Tips for Parents
In teen therapy, teenagers are expressing ethical dilemmas that while not knew, seem to be more pronounced with today's teens.
Today's world can be confusing. Marijuana being legal in some states while illegal in others. Personal liberties being constantly debated and challenge on the world stage. Some parents allowing underage drinking and others don't (good job parents who don't). Teens today may experience more confusion when it comes to ethics and the law.
In addition, social media gives teens access to various viewpoints outside of their geographical boundaries. Social media has a significant influence in shaping their opinions and behaviors.
For example, to stir thought and discussion, I have debated with my colleagues and posed ethical dilemmas to my supervisees' regarding underage drinking scenarios. Depending on the culture and values, thoughts around this topic vary despite laws stating it is illegal within the United States.
Regardless of the issues and your stance, it can be overwhelming and discouraging when your teenager breaks the law. There are mixed feelings of wanting to advocate for your teenager yet wanting them to experience the consequences of not following standard norms or rules (the law).
Food for Thought If Your Teen Has Been Arrested
Here are some ideas to help you navigate this difficult time as a parent:
1. Be Supportive
I understand that being supportive when your teen has broken the law may seem unrealistic; yet there are ways to provide support without condoning their behavior.
We all make mistakes and bad choices. Teens have challenges related to their growth, hormones, and environmental stressors that make them more likely to be poor judges of situations, leading to bad decisions.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the law-breaking behavior, be supportive of them as an individual and your child. Yelling, blaming, or cursing at your child, does not remove the natural consequences they are facing. It will also not eliminate the possibility of or prevent them from making another mistake or breaking the law again.
Instead, use this as an opportunity to engage in a discussion about values and life goals.
2. Set Standards for Accountability and Encourage them to Think about Long-Term Consequences
Parenting teenagers takes far more emotional and mental energy. While your teenager may struggle learning from consequences, being purposeful in teaching natural and logical consequences for certain behavior can help.
As stated before, support does not mean a lack of accountability. As a parent or adult caregiver, you are still responsible for guiding your child's choices and ensuring they learn from those choices' consequences.
You are not doing your child or yourself any favors by trying to rescue them from their consequences. If your child finds that you will bail them out of any situation, they will begin to expect that and become less autonomous in their decision-making skills.
Also, if your teen is not given a chance to learn the lessons that come with mistakes, they will struggle to develop the perseverance needed to re-group after a setback.
Instead, lead them into becoming responsible young adults who take ownership for their actions and decisions.
3. Don't Blame Yourself
Although our parenting certainly plays a role in how our children turn out, they are also individuals who make decisions and life choices on their own. Combined with the friends they choose to hang out with, influences of social media, the pre-frontal cortex not being fully developed, etc. your teen may make wrong choices.
As parents, our influence generally is extended within the walls of our own home. Our teens spend far more time out of the home than in. And while they are in our home, social media creeps in and may interfere with our loving guidance and influence.
Do the best you can parents. As long as you know you've done the best you can using the knowledge, skills, and resources at your disposal at the time, you have done your job.
4. Continue to Show Love
You can love a child who is engaging in counterproductive behaviors, even if you strongly disagree with the choices they have made. Loving your son or daughter even as they break the law does not mean you condone their wrong behavior.
Instead, this love you give them is necessary for your child to feel it, know it, and assist with bringing themselves out of their self-destructive behavior.
Parenting a teen is not easy, and it throws an extra complication into the mix when your teen breaks the law. Be firm with your child but continue to love him through the mess he has created. This support will bring your child hopes of a better future in time.
Teen Therapy & Family Counseling: Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our therapists specialize in teen counseling. We provide individual teen therapy, family counseling, and group therapy to help the teens and families we work with.
If your teen has gotten into legal trouble, it's likely that behind the actions rests emotional turmoil. Teen anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, depression, ADHD/ADD, continue to be on the rise among teenagers. Yet only 30% seek treatment.
We can help. Katy Teen & Family Counseling is easy to get to and is conveniently located just off of 99 and I-10. If you are ready to start teen counseling, family therapy, or group therapy, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Speak with our teen therapists or family counselors
Get the support that you and your teen may need during a difficult time
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we use therapy and counseling approaches that are supported by research. These approaches have been shown to work in the shortest amount of time.
We provide teen therapy, counseling for young adults, family therapy, and marriage counseling or couples therapy.
We also offer the following therapy and counseling services:
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Jheri Walter, LCSW-S is a seasoned therapist specializing in teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy.
Jheri has been providing therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2009. She enjoys using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) due to it's effectiveness with teens and young adults.
Jheri is also a supervisor providing mentoring and supervision to up and coming therapists. She has taken ownership to ensure the new therapists are therapists highly trained and qualified to provide therapy to others.
Jheri helps teens and families in the Katy, Tx and Houston area who struggle with: ADHD/ADD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, trauma, PTSD, and other challenges.
Jheri also has a unique understanding of some of the challenges teens and young adults face who are bi-racial. Identity, acceptance, and embracing a mixed heritage are some of the challenges she helps teens and young adults manage.