Maybe your teen is beyond disrespect or truancy and failing school. Perhaps your child is trying to manipulate you with more severe or dangerous threats. Has your teen gone to using the next level of aces? If so, please consult a professional therapist who is specially trained for helping teens and families. Level 3: Running Away- Your teen may be thinking: “Okay, so mom and dad can try to control me by showing up at school and getting in my business and talking to my teachers. I can’t let them embarrass me like that so I’ll tell them I’ll run away. That will scare them enough to give me what I want”!
This is a ploy used by savvy teens everywhere to make you fear the harm that may come to them on the streets, thus rendering you hostage to your teen’s demands. However, a powerless parent is ineffective. Ask yourself, is this household a safe place for my child to live? Are there drug/alcohol problems in the home or unsafe discipline or parenting that the child is running away from?
If all is safe in the home, it is time to consult with a professional counselor and implement severe consequences for running away. Techniques like publishing a “wanted poster/flyer” with an unflattering picture of your child with a monetary reward are useful when posted all over the child’s school and hangouts. Feel free to pawn or sell your child’s prize possessions to finance the reward. Make sure you communicate with the people at the safe houses. Talk to the parents of the friends your child may run to. Make sure that adults and friends know they are legally not allowed to harbor your runaway teen and you are ready to get legal assistance if necessary. Usually disobedient teens would rather avoid these consequences than continue to run away. But there are some that will continue to up the ante.
Level 4: Teen Pregnancy- Your teen may be thinking: “Mom and Dad are worried that I am not having safe sex and I will end up with a baby. They are so worried when I am running away and staying out all night that I am having unprotected sex or get someone/get pregnant. They are so scared of that they will let me do whatever I want”!
Research from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that teens with behavior problems are the most likely to engage in premarital sex and have unplanned pregnancies. Talking with your child early and often about sex is the number one way to protect your teen. However, these conversations need to be held when tensions are lower and parents can convey a safe and respectful atmosphere for such a sensitive conversation. If your teen is already engaging in unsafe sex, there are some non- traditional methods you can read more about in Parenting Your Out of Control Teenager. Make sure that your teenager knows what your role would be in your grandchild’s life if they had a child. Make it clear and document what you will support and what will be your child’s responsibility. Please consult with your family therapist for more assistance to move beyond this extreme behavior.
Do not ignore or fall victim to these warnings. Your child is trying to communicate with you using these behaviors. Your response is critical. Please check back this week as Natalie and Joleen talk about Alcohol/ Drug Abuse, Violence and Threats of Suicide. As always, thanks for stopping by.
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield