6 Ways to Deal Compassionately With Your Troubled Teen

Parenting a troubled teen from a compassionate perspective that demonstrates how much you care about them often yields very positive results. Consider trying one of these approaches the next time you’re struggling to figure out how to deal with your teen.

1. Focus on the teen you love, not the behavior you don’t.

Difficult teen behavior can make parents loose sight of the teen they love and wonder who the teen is that stands before them. It can become difficult to relate to a troubled teen or even want to be in the same room with them. When this happens, it may help to take a moment to focus on the things you do love about your troubled teen and how much they mean to you.

2. Reflect on your teens’ strengths and positive qualities.

When there is a significant amount of focus on what a teen isn’t doing well or the consequences of their acting out behavior, it’s easy to loose sight of the positive aspects of their personality and accomplishments. In response, try making a conscious effort to focus on every one of your teens’ positive traits. Perhaps jot them down for future reference or mention them to your teen.

3. Ponder the pain behind the troubled behavior.

Behind the troubling behavior is usually a teen in pain who is struggling to deal with feelings or situations they don’t understand. A compassionate response is to empathize with their pain. Try to remember and reflect on the angst of your teen years. Try standing in your teens’ shoes for a while and pay attention to the thoughts that come up.

4. View your teen through the eyes of a stranger.

It’s possible to become so involved in a troubled teens’ problems or bad behavior that this begins to define them in your eyes. At such times a broad, honest, caring appraisal may help. Try taking a step away from your teen in order to look at them from the perspective of someone who’s never met them before. The results may surprise you.

5. Connect with your teen on a deep and caring level.

Difficult teens are exhausting for most parents to deal with and it’s easy to disengage from them as a result. To help maintain a compassionate, caring bond with your teen find ways to express that you love them and know they are in pain. Let them know that the problems they are having touch you deeply and this is painful for you as well. Directly express your love and concern to your teen or write a note and pass it on to them.

6. Know when to fix and when to just be.

It’s easy to want to offer advice to help a teen who is struggling but sometimes what they need most is for the parent who loves them to sometimes simply be with them. Find opportunities to give hugs, a gentle touch or to sit quietly with your troubled teen.

All of these compassionate approaches can help shift the way you think about and interact with your teen, and sometimes simply taking a different approach elicits a different response from your teen as well.

Kathryn Rudlin, LCSW