You don’t have a teenager… You have a teenager with a behavior disorder. Parents, that is the first thing you need to understand. There is a difference between regular teenage behavior and what your teen and you are currently experiencing. Underneath the disorder there is a typical teenager so even though it may be hard, remember that your child doesn’t know how to connect with the world right now. With the appropriate treatment, behavior disorders can be a temporary state.
Types Of Behavior Disorders
Teenagers with behavior disorders typically fall in one or more of the following four categories: Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADD/ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Conduct Disorder. The first thing you need to do to help your teen is to have them accurately and adequately diagnosed. Making the mistake of assuming your teen’s behavior is a diagnosable mental health condition can lead to much frustration and inappropriate treatment. Instead, if you suspect that your teen’s behavior is not age appropriate visit with the school counselor or another qualified mental health professional. A diagnosis is not meant to put a label your teenager but to help him or her receive the correct treatment to help them learn to manage their issues. Regardless of which disorder your teen is struggling with treatment will need to be focused and involve your teen’s school, caregivers including clergy, and the immediate and extended family.
A Special Word About Behavior Disorders At School
When your teen is diagnosed with one of these disorders it may feel shameful or embarrassing so you may not want to talk about it. Meeting with the school counselor, administrators, and teachers is very important. As parents you should know that your teen is eligible for a Section 504 plan at school. Section 504 is a part of the Americans With Disabilities Act and is designed to give students additional protection at school because of their behavior disorder. Depending on the specifics of your child’s diagnosis special rules and provisions can be written into the plan to give your troubled teen the best chance to stay in school. Section 504 is not a license or excuse for your teen to misbehave but it will acknowledge that your teen’s issues are currently impeding his progress at school. You may need to consult with the Special Education Director of your school district because not all teachers and administrators are familiar with Section 504 or how to properly administer it.
Consistency Is Key
One of the things you need to understand about kids with behavioral disorders is they are at risk for juvenile delinquency. The behavior is not the cause as much as it is a contributing factor because your teen doesn’t know how to control their impulses. For that reason it is important that your teen’s treatment plan is shared with all those they come in contact with. Kids with behavior problems need this consistency to understand direct consequences of their actions.
They cannot be allowed to slide on their behavior. What happens at school must happen at home and vice versa. Giving them this structured consistency will become a positive force as they work to overcome their challenges. Of course follow through by parents, teachers, and other adults is also crucial. If there is a breakdown in the consistency or the follow-through it can be extremely confusing for struggling teenager to understand what is expected of them.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
Parents when raising teenagers with behavioral disorders it is going to take more patience than sometimes you feel you have. Try to remember the structure, therapy, and other interventions you have put in place may not have immediate results. When you are in the thick of your teenager’s latest meltdown the tendency is to want results immediately. Of course, that is only natural. This expectation only leads to frustration for everyone involved. The end goal is going to takes time. You may need to try many different types of intervention to help your teen. If along the way you feel that whatever interventions you have chosen are not yielding results, it may be time to look at a therapeutic boarding school. It is a decision that no parent who looked at their brand-new baby ever thought they would be making but for some troubled teens the intense therapy offered at therapeutic boarding schools is exactly what they need. As scary as sending your child away seems, remember the goal is preparing this young person for adult life.
It also does not mean you have failed as a parent. It only means your teen needs extra services.
When you have a teenager with behavioral disorders, the only mistake you can make is doing nothing. They are not going to grow out of the disorder. If you let your own fear, embarrassment, or other concern prevent you from getting your child the help that they need then this disorder will carry with them through adulthood. Remember, this kid needs help! Do whatever it takes to get it for them.
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