Tag Archive: teenager

  1. Creating Consistent Expectations for Your Adolescent

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    Parents usually have the best of intentions, especially when setting guidelines and boundaries for their children. However, when they are stretched by the stressors caused by work, finances, relationships, and the behaviors of their children, consistency in parenting can be difficult to maintain. Although it can be challenging at times, creating and maintaining consistent expectations for your adolescent actually helps them to feel more in control of their lives.

    Pushing Boundaries vs. Pushing Back

    For children to push boundaries is completely normal. In fact, if your adolescent is pushing boundaries, that means that they are becoming more independent and preparing to be an adult. However, the adolescent brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25, and the last functions to develop are rational thinking, decision making, and awareness of consequences, so they obviously still need boundaries to keep them safe.

    One of the consequences of inconsistent parenting is that after being pushed so long, a parent will push back with sudden, harsh consequences. Particularly when these behaviors have not had the same consequences before, it leaves the adolescent confused and can cause resentment. This, in turn, can lead to more behaviors and acting out. While parents may think that being strict in certain situations is helpful, it is more important to be consistent.

    What Is the Difference Between Being Strict vs. Being Consistent?

    Your child may tell everyone that you are a strict parent, no matter what you do. However, “strict” parents typically have a lot of rules, exercise more control and intervention within their child’s lives, and impose more consequences as well. Even with the best of intentions, this approach can backfire, as your child will feel as though they have no control over their life.

    Creating consistent expectations does not have a set amount of rules, as some children need more boundaries than others. A consistent parent sets clear boundaries and consequences with their child and then maintains them. Consistency can be considered to be like making and keeping a promise to your child. Even if the “promise” is a consequence for behaviors, you are doing what you said you would do, and that actually builds trust and confidence in you as a parent.

    Preventative Parenting

    Too often, parenting becomes reactive. A child exhibits a behavior, and the parent reacts with a consequence that was not anticipated by the child. While not all behaviors can be anticipated, there is much that parents can do to prevent these situations. Some of the best ways to parent preventatively include:

    • Creating Schedules – sitting down with your child and creating a schedule with them is not only an important life skill, but helps them to have a plan and understand what is coming next. When a child has nothing to do, they are more likely to find trouble.
    • Clear Expectations – when parents set boundaries, it is important that they are very clear and that the child understands them. A curfew, for example, sets a clear expectation of when they are expected to be home. As with anything else, these expectations need to be consistent and maintained.
    • Choose Your Battles – behaviors with serious risks or consequences are worth standing your ground on. Adolescents still need some autonomy, though, or they will never learn to make their own decisions, so choosing your battles is very important.

    The Value of Creating a United Front

    The concept of one parent saying no and the child going to the other parent to try to get what they want is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Children know when they can manipulate their parents, so creating a united front is crucial to consistent parenting. Getting everyone on the same page can be very difficult, particularly in families where there is separation or divorce, but being able to provide that consistency allows your child to understand the consequences of their actions before the behaviors occur.

    Consistency Puts Adolescents in Control

    When your child understands that “if I do this, then that will happen,” internally they understand that the choices they make are their own. When parents impose consequences consistently, no matter how hard children push the boundaries, they learn the value of making good choices.

    Although it may feel like a constant battle for parents, creating consistent expectations is kind of like a security blanket. Your child knows that you will always treat them fairly based on their choices, and that increases feelings of trust and love. They may still push the boundaries constantly, but knowing that you will consistently offer the same consequences allows them to learn accountability for their own choices. Creating consistent expectations puts adolescents in control.

    Creating consistent expectations as a parent can be very difficult to maintain; however, adolescents feel more in control when they understand the consequences of their behaviors. No matter how hard your child pushes the boundaries, staying consistent gives them the opportunity to make their own choices and become accountable for their actions. Creating structure and consistency is the foundation of the Sustain program. We offer extended residential treatment for adolescents so that we can help your child learn consistency. Our approach is to help them learn accountability and understand why they are making choices. Our Orange County, California, program offers multiple levels of care for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health diagnoses. We also help connect them with others during and after treatment and have alumni involvement as well to help them with long-term success. Call us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for your child.

  2. How Can I Earn the Respect of Non-Compliant Adolescents?

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    Adolescents with substance abuse or mental health diagnoses can be difficult to reach. Some clients use their behaviors to avoid treatment to such an extent that they are considered “non-compliant.” As a professional, such behaviors are usually a cry for help, but how do you reach a client who does not seem to want help? How can you earn the respect of non-compliant adolescents?

    The Behavior Is Not the Problem

    How often are adolescents labeled as “bad,” “troubled,” “at-risk,” or more? Too often adolescents have learned that negative attention is still attention. Creating behaviors to deflect from their actual pain and struggles allows them to live down to others’ expectations of them.

    The behaviors themselves are not the problem, however. Substance abuse and mental health diagnoses are not even the actual problem, they are simply diagnoses of the symptoms. Their actual problems are often emotional pain from physical or emotional trauma, serious problems with family, and more. The more distracting the behaviors, the easier it is to simply consider them “difficult” or “non-compliant.” Digging deeper, they are all still human beings, and their behaviors are standing in the way of getting help to heal from their emotional wounds.

    Listen and Observe to Find the Whys

    Behaviors are like puzzles. When you are willing to watch and listen carefully, slowly but surely you can find the whys, or the motivations for their behaviors. Often the adolescents themselves have no idea why they are acting out, using substances, or are unwilling to comply with any form of treatment. This makes it even more important as a professional to listen and observe closely.

    For most adolescents, there is no easy answer, no “aha!” moment where all of their behaviors disappear. Finding answers is more like peeling the layers of an onion, and requires incredible patience. Some adolescents will even increase their behaviors as you get closer to their truths. While this can be very discouraging and frustrating as a professional, remembering why you chose this path and the success stories you have can help you to maintain motivation.

    Offer Adolescents Reasonable Choices

    Simply telling an adolescent “no” is as effective as telling a toddler “no,” except adolescents throw bigger tantrums. Learning to offer consistent, reasonable choices to adolescents takes away the opportunities for distractions, but also gives them responsibility for their choices. Sure, they may only have a choice between something that is not fun and something that is really not fun, but you will gain respect when you hold them accountable for their choices.

    Developing respect and compliance is great in a small group setting, where adolescents can see that others making good choices are rewarded for those choices. Perhaps their initial response is still to act out or not be willing to comply, but eventually, they will want to receive the rewards or privileges for making good choices. Even if their motivation is only the benefit of the good choice, they start making good choices a habit, and eventually will learn that making good choices and receiving positive attention is better than negative attention.

    Giving Adolescents Control Without Giving up Control

    There is a false notion that offering an adolescent control of their own choices means giving up control as a clinician or professional. This concept is actually the opposite of true. As you give an adolescent the opportunity to make their own choices and also to accept the consequences of their choices, you gain more respect from them.

    Respect is far more powerful than the “control” that so many adults seek to impose on young people. An adolescent’s respect empowers both the youth and the adults who are offering them guidance to move past the behaviors, find the source of their pain, and help them to heal and move forward with greater success in life. This is how you can give young people control without giving up your own control.

    Respect Is a Two-Way Street

    As professionals, we sometimes forget that in asking for respect, we need to give respect. Whether you are working with a child, an adolescent, or a young adult, age does not preclude the necessity of offering the same respect that you are asking for. When you are able to effectively demonstrate your respect for your clients, they are more likely to treat you with respect in return.

    Non-compliance should not be confused for a lack of respect, either. Remember that an adolescent’s behaviors are about them, not you. When you can respect them, observe and listen to them, offer them choices and allow them to consistently receive the same consequences for their choices, you are more likely to be able to reach them, too.

    Earning the respect of adolescents with serious behavior issues or who are deemed “non-compliant” can seem like a battle, but it is really more about patience and respect. Remembering that the behavior is not the problem and not taking things personally will allow you to gradually earn respect and hopefully be able to help your client heal. The Sustain Recovery program is built around the concept that the substance abuse and mental health diagnoses are not the problem but rather the adolescent’s maladaptive solutions to the real problem. Our extended care program offers the opportunity for them to not only have more success in treatment but also be able to transition back into their homes and communities. Our staff are committed to providing evidence-based practices and the structure and opportunities for young people to become accountable. Call us today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program can be the solution to your child or client’s needs.

  3. Can my teenager attend rehab while in school?

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    Many parents want to postpone enrolling their teenager in a treatment program. The most common reason for this is parental heart: they’re afraid their child will fall behind in their schoolwork.

    However, substance abuse can also cause students academic troubles – and a lot of other troubles as well. The longer the substance abuse is allowed to continue, the harder it can be to bounce back.

    Not many people know this, but most public schools and universities are flexible when it comes to students in recovery. If a teen is functional at school, they may be awarded special scheduling adjustments. In that case, outpatient treatment can be an effective recovery option.

    Academics Are a Part of Teen Outpatient Recovery


    Teens in outpatient programs are expected to continue to attend classes during the school year. In some cases, a young person may be given additional academic assistance within the rehabilitation program. Independent education plan (IEP) is an effective tool designed to incorporate a person’s schoolwork into their overall recovery goals. Tutors may also be available during specific days and hours, as well as supervised peer study groups.

    Rehab clinics are a place tailored toward accountability, which naturally includes keeping up with homework, organizing, and scheduling. If an academic goal is valuable to you, it’s valuable to the clinicians, who only want to see their patients continue on a good path. If a patient needs assistance with homework or college applications, they need only ask.

    When you give a student the services they need to recover, you’re not just adding more stress to their plate; you’re beginning the process of reducing their stress significantly. When teens feel good emotionally, they do better socially, physically, and academically. Once the improvements begin, they tend to snowball.

    Get Involved


    When choosing an outpatient addiction treatment program for your teen, look for one for which you can stay actively involved. Attending family nights for educational workshops and support is not a recommendation but a real necessity for educating yourself adequately on teenage addiction. You should also interface regularly with staff members to check in on the progress of your teen. Clinics rely heavily on the input of the teen’s most trusted people in life, namely their parents. There are places parents can reach that no one else can, even specialists.

    To get your teen started, call today: (949) 637-5499

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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