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Family with Teenagers.

Dr. Elizabeth MacGregor

Theravive Counselor


Most Insurances Accepted, including Medicare

Family Therapy and Dealing with Teenagers

Family therapy is indispensable when it comes to family challenges and dealing with teenagers. Teenage issues can be difficult for parents to navigate. The dynamics in a family are complex and many parents and children feel overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions and negative feelings that they are experiencing and they don’t know how to constructively communicate with each other. Often they have conflicting goals for themselves and each other. These conflicts can tug and tear at a family until it feels like everything is coming apart and going out of control.

Troubled Teenagers and Behavior Problems

When a parent hears comments from their children such as “I hate you!” and “You can’t make me!” and even “F― you!” it can be devastating. These types of comments are often from a defiant child with Oppositional Defiant Disorders (ODD). All children have their moments of being oppositional ― it would be best for the child to be diagnosed by a trained therapist to be sure this is the problem.

According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), “ODD is more often found in families where one parent has a diagnosed mood disorder, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder (ADD), or an antisocial personality disorder.” AMHCA goes on to say … these children are hostile, have difficulty with authority figures, and are disobedient to a fault. They are craving control, blame others and seek negative attention. They are often angry, resentful, touchy, and easily annoyed by others. ODD occurs more often in boys than girls and typically shows up at around age 8. This disorder is more than simply an expression of anger, and should be treated by a caring professional. Parents of these children need help in how to parent a child exhibiting oppositional defiance.

Other teenage issues that are negatively affecting families center on the use of drugs and alcohol. When a child is abusing substances, it can make it even more difficult to reach them. One of the signs to look for is failing grades, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, declining physical appearance or grooming. Drug and alcohol dependency can be caused for a number of reasons. Addiction is a complicated disorder and a trained therapist can be instrumental in getting your child on the road to recovery.

Cutting and self-injury is a way for some teens to cope with painful memories and situations. Having your child talk with a professional counselor to understand why they self-harm is an important step to finding better methods to manage their emotional conflicts.

Teen Suicide is a huge problem in today’s world and teens have become increasing violent in their attempts. Although the causes of teen suicide are many and varied, the increase can be linked to changes in our society: school and cyber bullying is at epidemic proportions, parents are separating and divorcing in increasing numbers, the burdens of single parenting, step-family issues, the demands on two-career families, and ironically the increasing mobile world all make attempts at real communication difficult and exhausting.

Building Connections with Your Child

Strong family ties and open dialog is the best method to keep the lines open. Every family is different and has different styles of communication, but all can benefit from learning to respect each other and listening to the other family members’ concerns.

Spending enough time with your kids and staying involved with their life in a balanced way is the most successful approach to a healthy relationship with your child. Simply having regular sit-down dinners with your family can not only improve your relationship with your child, but your spouse or partner as well.

Discipline is a balancing act and is not the same as punishment. Using experiences as a teaching tool for learning consequences is much more effective in your child’s personal growth. Setting reasonable rules and boundaries, being patient and flexible, negotiating fairly, picking your battles and encouraging your child to express his or her true feelings are all techniques that can be learned by a trained professional therapist.

Call and talk with a child behavioral therapist at Montville Counseling Center ― take advantage of a free 15 minutes consultation to put your mind at ease and start building the bridges to get your family on the road to a healthy relationship.