We've all been teenagers and can understand the desire to try new and exciting or taboo things. It's part of growing up, and no kid is perfect, however, sometimes kids fall in line with the wrong crowd and the choices they end up making with these kids can affect them long after they're 16.
As parents, all we can do is guide our children in the right way and help support them to make good choices. Ultimately, when they step out of the door, we can only hope our seeds have been planted right, but with proper parenting, you can spot a teen who's hanging with the bad apples and try to turn things around for your teenager before it's too late.
Isolating From the Family
It's expected that teenagers will drift somewhat from family time with the desire of spending time with their friends. It's part of working on that individual identity but of course, when your teen shuts out the whole family, it's a sign that something is happening and it's not good.
Your teen could be engaging in activities he or she knows you will not approve of, like smoking or drugs, or perhaps sex. You won't know simply based off of his or her isolation, but you will know that something is awry with your child. Along with isolating oneself, your teen may seem secretive as well. If you find him saying to you, "Nothing," every time you ask what he's doing, you can be pretty certain that that "nothing" is code for a very big something is going on.
Never Met the Parents
Is your teen's new friend unsupervised a lot? Have you even met this kid's parents? Do the parents work late hours or travel frequently? This is a child without a lot of supervision, and that should be a huge red flag to you.
Significantly Older Friends
I'm sorry but, older guys hanging out with younger girls? Come on now, moms! We know the deal.
If your teen is hanging out with a significantly older crowd, you should be concerned immediately.
Shift in Moods or Behaviors
Is your teen suddenly a b*tch on wheels or extremely grouchy? Is it not unusual to find your child in tears, only for your kid to slam the door on you? Have your teen's grades dropped or has he or she skipped out or quit formerly loved or respected hobbies and activities?
If you answered yes, your teen might be mingling with the fleas unfortunately. Teenagers do change with hormones but they don't become a completely different person overnight. Hormones are powerful, yes, but they're not fully responsible for that cocky and vicious attitude your kid is sporting.
Change in Appearance
If your teen suddenly adapts a radical look, it might be experimentation or it might be peer-pressure related.
Glib or Provocative Friends
Is your teen's new friend incredibly glib or too casual around you and your partner, as well as other adults? Do you frequently say to yourself, "Wow, I can't believe this kid speaks to me this way?"
Do you notice your teen's new favorite BFF seems to hang around the opposite sex a lot? It may mean nothing, but it could mean something, especially if your teen's new friend is hanging out with the opposite sex unsupervised or dating one on one at a rather young age.
Bye-Bye, Old Friends
Did your child kick his or her old friends to the curb out of the blue? He may have traded in his old reliables for a faster more exciting crowd.
Impulsive Behavior or Risk-Taking Behavior
Did your teen get caught doing something very risky or rash and it seems completely out of character for the child you gave birth to?
Running. With. The. Wrong. Crowd.
If you suspect your kid is running with the bad kids, here are some tips to dealing with your teen.
- Find the Attraction: According to Laura Kastner, PhD, ask, "What is it that attracts you to this person? What do you like about your new friend?" Knowing the reason your child seeks out this person could be a good way to understand if there's trouble ahead and what's directing your kid to this bad seed.
- Hold Back the Insults: If you insult your teen's new BFF, he or she will become very defensive. Be cautious with your words. If your teen puts up his guard, you'll get very little information.
- Be Upfront: Kastner adds that it's also smart to be upfront about your concerns regarding your teen's behavior. Be sure to set clear expectations for your teen regarding his or her behavior.
- Approach the Problem: Too many parents hide from the problem saying, "Not my kid," until they're faced with the reality of "Oh yes — my kid." Even if your child was the model boy scout for years, do not dodge a potential issue because it's uncomfortable for you to face. If you do, it could end up being too late.
- Ask to Meet Parents: If this new kid's parents are MIA, ask your child if you can meet them. Perhaps they are just as concerned as you are over their child's behavior or maybe they're not but would be willing to meet with you.
- Consult With Teachers: If your child's grades are dropping, speak to the teacher. What does he or she think is the source of the problem? Has your child's behavior been disruptive in school?
- Encourage: Encourage your teen to get involved in new activities or approach back the ones they used to love. Being active helps teenagers stay away from dangerous temptations.
- Lay Off the Forbid Contact Requests: Don't forbid your teen to see a kid unless you are certain this child puts yours in danger, because if you try to put a stop to the friendship, the restriction could make the friend seem more attractive and exciting. It's hard to know when to ask your teen to cut off contact, so get aggressive if needed but hold back if this friend isn't a danger.
- Mixed-Group Outings: Be wary of your teen being left alone with the opposite sex. If he or she is old enough, encourage those group dates!
No matter how difficult your teen becomes, be sure to let him or her know how much you love them and be consistent, consistent, consistent! If you're not consistent, your teen will walk all over you.