How to Help a Troubled Teenager

Helping teens improve their mental health

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10 tips for parenting a troubled teenager

Identify common signs of troubled youth

Resources and programs for troubled teens

What is a troubled teen?

Troubled teen is a term used to describe an adolescent who is experiencing emotional or behavioral issues that significantly impact their daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. Such issues manifest in various ways, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, delinquency, aggression, or withdrawal. It’s important to note that troubled teen is a general term that does not indicate a specific diagnosis or condition. It is simply a way to describe a teenager struggling with emotional or behavioral issues who may require additional support and resources to address these challenges.

Parents of troubled teens

Given the complexities of adolescence and the societal pressures, academic demands, and other stressors teens face, raising teens is challenging under the best of circumstances. Parenting a troubled teenager can therefore be an incredibly daunting task. If you’re caring for a troubled teen, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle to manage their teenager’s behaviors, emotions, anger issues, and challenges. However, help is available. You don’t have to walk this path alone.

In this article, we share tips for parenting a troubled teenager. We also discuss common signs of troubled youth, the underlying reasons why teenagers may struggle, and various programs and resources available to help them. Our goal is to provide practical advice and support to help you navigate this challenging time. You can help your teenager overcome their challenges and achieve a better future. Let’s get started.

Signs of a troubled teenager

It can be challenging to distinguish normal teenage behavior from signs of trouble. However, recognizing when a teen is in trouble is crucial for providing appropriate help and support. Here are some common signs that your child may be struggling:

Changes in behavior

If your adolescent suddenly starts acting differently, such as becoming more withdrawn, irritable, or aggressive, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

Changes in academic performance

If your teenager’s grades suddenly drop, they start skipping school, or they stop participating in extracurricular activities, it could indicate that they are struggling.

Substance use

If your teen starts using drugs or alcohol, it may because they are trying to cope with overwhelming emotional or behavioral issues.

Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

If your child starts to eat or sleep excessively or has trouble sleeping or eating, it may indicate an underlying problem.

Risky behaviors

If your teenager engages in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, or self-harming, it may be a sign that they are struggling with emotional or behavioral issues.

It’s important to note that these signs don’t necessarily mean that your teenager is in trouble, but they may indicate that they need help. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to talk to your child and seek professional help if necessary. Early detection and intervention can significantly impact your teen’s well-being and future.

Find support and guidance for your teen with online therapy. Learn more about our convenient and discreet online options today.

Understanding and providing help for troubled teens

As a parent of a troubled teen, it’s important to determine the underlying reasons why your child is struggling. This can help you develop empathy, and support your teenager in more effective ways. Here are some common reasons why a teen may become troubled:

Mental health issues

Some adolescents struggle with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. These conditions can affect mood, behavior, and overall well-being. Learn more about how mental health issues can impact teenagers and how to provide appropriate support.


Traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, and violence, can have a profound impact on a teenager’s emotional and behavioral development. Learn to recognize the signs of trauma and how to help your teenager heal from past traumatic experiences.

Family issues

Family conflict, divorce, or lack of parental support can also cause or exacerbate a teen’s emotional and behavioral issues. Learn ways to improve your relationship with your child and create a supportive and loving home environment.

Peer pressure

Often influenced by peers, teenagers may engage in risky behaviors to fit in or gain acceptance. Learn how to help your teenager resist peer pressure and make positive choices.

Academic pressure

The pressure to perform well academically can cause stress and anxiety in some adolescents, which can lead to emotional and behavioral issues. Learn how to support your child’s academic success without putting too much pressure on them.

Each teenager is distinct, and some may experience a combination of contributing factors. It is crucial to acknowledge that struggling adolescents are not flawed or faulty; they are confronting obstacles that should prompt empathy, assistance, and expert intervention. By being compassionate and understanding with your distressed teenager, you can help them feel acknowledged, supported, and optimistic about their future.

Therapy methodology

Many different methods of psychotherapy can be employed to help teens cope with mental health problems:

  • Gestalt therapy: This approach was founded in 1968 by Frederick Perls. It’s based in the idea that present problems are related to unfinished situations and unmet needs. Gestalt therapists help clients sort out feelings and thoughts, realize needs, and find ways to satisfy them in the present.
  • Play therapy: This therapeutic method can help adolescents suffering from emotional disorders, fears, depression, and neuroses. Its various techniques are based on the recognition that play is an important factor in personality development. As early as 1946, Anna Freud used play to facilitate attachment to the therapist and presumably gain access to a child’s psyche. The technique remains effective today.
  • Art therapy: This psychotherapy approach is great for working with the unconscious. By encouraging creativity and imagery, art therapists help teenagers better understand themselves. This externalization of inner experiences can bring repressed experiences and intrapersonal conflicts to the surface so that they can be addressed gently.

Tips for parenting a troubled teen

Parenting a troubled teenager can be challenging and overwhelming, but there are things that you can do to help your teen through this difficult time. Here are ten tips for parenting a troubled youth.

1. Keep communication lines open

Encourage your teenager to talk to you about their feelings and listen without judgment or interruption.

2. Set clear and consistent boundaries

Establish rules and expectations regarding behavior, curfews, technology use, and household responsibilities, and follow through with appropriate consequences when necessary. This can help your teen feel secure and learn responsibility, respect, and self-discipline, valuable skills for their future.

3. Be a role model

Be a positive model of the good value and behaviors you want to encourage in your child by displaying them yourself through your choices and interactions with others.

4. Offer support and encouragement

Create a nurturing home environment by always being there for your child. To support them, focus on the good they do, express appreciation for their efforts, and demonstrate confidence in them by including them in decision-making.

5. Help them build a support network

Encourage your teenager to connect with friends, family members, or support groups that can offer additional support and encouragement.

6. Encourage healthy habits

Promote healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene to support your teenager’s physical and mental health.

7. Consider therapy or counseling

Therapy or counseling can provide a safe and supportive space for your teenager to explore their feelings and develop coping skills.

8. Seek professional help when necessary

If your teenager is struggling with severe emotional or behavioral issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a mental health provider. There are many in-person and online troubled teen programs available.

9. Practice self-care

Parenting a troubled teen can be stressful and exhausting, so it’s important to prioritize your own self-care needs.

10. Stay positive and hopeful

Remember that with support and resources, most teenagers will overcome their challenges and thrive.

By following these tips and seeking appropriate resources and support, parents can help a troubled teen navigate this difficult life stage and move toward a brighter future.

Resources and programs for troubled teens

If your teenager is struggling, there are many troubled teen programs and resources available. Here are some common resources:

Therapy or counseling

Therapy provides a safe space for your teenager to talk about their thoughts and feelings and learn coping skills for managing their emotions. Modern Recovery offers a convenient, private, and inclusive online therapy program for teens.

Support groups and peer networks

These social networks can help your child develop a sense of community and belonging by connecting them with others who are facing similar challenges.

Residential treatment programs

Residential treatment programs provide more intensive support for teenagers who are struggling with severe emotional or behavioral issues.

Educational and vocational resources

Educational and vocational resources can help your adolescent gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school and/or the workforce.

Alternative therapies and interventions

Alternative therapies and interventions, such as art therapy, yoga, or equine therapy, can provide your teenager with new means of self-expression to help manage their emotions.

Each of these resources has its own benefits and limitations. It’s important to consider your teenager’s unique needs and challenges when selecting supports that will work best for them.

Final thoughts

Parenting a troubled teenager can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, but there is hope. By recognizing the signs of trouble, understanding your teenager’s unique challenges, and seeking support, you can help your teenager overcome their challenges and forge a fulfilling future. Remember to remain patient, persistent, and loving, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a troubled teen program when necessary.

If you’re looking for a convenient and private form of therapy for your teenager, check out Modern Recovery’s online teen therapy program, which includes licensed therapists who specialize in helping teens overcome challenges and improve their mental health. By investing in your child’s mental health and well-being, you’ll be investing in their future.