Are you having trouble with your teenager? If you are, you most likely feel a sense of frustration and dread, and know you must act immediately.  But how and where do you start? What do you do to correct the situation? As a parent, your options are talking to your child, getting him help counseling and or therapy.  In your heart you know you need to act promptly to stop the bad behaviors and encourage new habits. But how do you go about it?

There’s a lot of public information on how to deal with a troubled teenager, or what to do when your teenager gets in trouble.  Depending on the type of trouble, the frequency, and the seriousness of the situation you can explore different alternatives. If your child is acting out and this is a new situation, speaking to your child is always the best approach.  Explore the issue, the motives and his thinking. Discuss consequences and ensure you establish clear boundaries. Try to get a sense of your child’s motivation. Is he testing boundaries and exploring, does he feel bad about what’s happening, does he show remorse?  Or is this a sign of deeper issues?

If you suspect that this is the start of a new phase and you are seeing behavioral trends as opposed to one offs, then the best way to deal with it is to get in touch with a professional to help your family and your teenager address the new behaviors or emotional issues.

Psychotherapists and child psychologists specialize in helping teens work through emotional issues, learn new skills to deal with behaviors and help your teenager understand and deal with the issues that are causing him to act out.

Although, there are many groups and helpful organizations dedicated to help teenagers, it is imperative for parents to figure what is the best fit for your teen specific issues. Talk to a therapist that will help you assess your child and  ascertain specifically what is troubling your child and the best way to help him.

Choosing a therapist can be overwhelming, how do you start, where do you find a good therapist for your child?  Searching online, speaking to a guidance counselor or asking your pediatrician for referral is a good way to start.  Before you make the appointment, ask questions. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best therapist for your teen.

Prepare a script or list of questions will help you stay on topic and don’t allow yourself to be intimidated.  You need to work with someone that will partner with you. Your goal for the first conversation should be to:

  1. Understand their background and training and experience working with teenagers.
  2. Understand how much information the therapist will share with parents or how you and the therapist will partner to help your child.
  3. Ask about frequency and length of therapy; while each child is unique and there are no standard reply to this question, asking it will help you get a sense of his/her process.
  4. Ask for references, perhaps another parent whose child she’s helped.
  5. Understand their feelings on medications.
  6. Have a list ready of the issues and concerns you have about your child, think about his history and the changes or new behaviors that prompted you to reach out for help.  Discuss those openly and be ready to openly discuss how his behavior is impacting him and your family.