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Wanting a Teenager to Change

answered 09:53 PM EST, Wed October 08, 2014
anonymous anonymous
We are trying to get our son into a wilderness program. He is currently skipping school, smoking pot and with the wrong crowd. He has been diagnosed with ADD and depression. The friends he is with are no good and the so called girlfriend isn't either. How do I know he won't go back to these kids after he is in the program. They all go to the same school. I want him to make the right decisions and go back to his old friends and habits.

Rev. Christopher Smith Says...

Rev. Christopher Smith C. Smith
LCAC, LMHC, LMFT
Google+

Parents tend to want to look out for their children, to make things go well for them and to keep them away from trouble (especially problems the parent did not like experiencing). Unfortunately, the reality is that children are independent thinkers and actors. Parents can influence their children but there are limitations about what a parent can make a child do or feel. They are independent people and you r goal hopefully is to have them grown and develop so they can be on their own. That being said and not knowing all of the specifics of your case, there are two other areas I want to respond to in what you are saying.The first of these is the wilderness program. There are many versions of these and they serve different purposes. In situation such as you describe, some of them will be good at helping him feel a sense of accomplishment (and hopefully increased self esteem) as well as what it is like to work in a positive team. These have the possibility of giving him something he can rely on when he is looking for things after the program. Even if the program has the right sort of people in it and are able to provide a drug free environment, most wilderness programs will only provide a break from some of the actions you are hoping to get him away from. The real challenge comes in forming new habits and most wilderness programs are not long enough to truly integrate a new habit. Even if it was, this could also pose other challenges depending on his comfort being outdoors and being away for so long. It is important to go into the experience with a realistic understanding of what it can and cannot provide.The other area is about his friend selection. There are some things you can do to limit contact with people you consider to be a bad influence, but this can backfire and have the opposite effect. Even if you blocked all contact, you still are not able to change his choice of friends. Talking about the reasons behind your judgement of his friends is far more productive than simply providing judgement. Of course, this needs to be a true conversation and you need to understand what he sees in them too. Why did his friends change? Were his old friends really as good as you think or were they just not the "bad crowd"? Have his current "bad" friends been supportive of him when other people have tried to avoid him because of the depression or ADD? In fact, has the ADD caused him to be labeled by others as similar to the "bad" kids so that an affinity is created between him and them? Beyond considering the reality of his friends, there is also the possibility to help him differentiate his friendships and his actions, but this is harder at his age.Remember in all of it what is in your control. Remember that sometimes the lesson is really learned only when the heat of the firs is felt rather then just described. These years can be tough, but it is possible to find wholeness and peace within your situation, both now and in the future it leads to.

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Page last updated Oct 08, 2014

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