Troubled Teen Issues

Peer Pressure

Teenage Peer Pressure

For teenagers, it can seem very important to “fit in.” Teens are very concerned about their images, and they are worried about what others think about them. As a result, peer pressure is very influential in many teens’ lives. Peer pressure is basically the influence that people your age have on you. For teenagers, it is the influence that other teens have on their behavior, dress, attitude and practices. Often, teenagers do what others are doing so that they can fit in – or at least not stand out. Teens like to do what their friends are doing, and be accepted. This peer pressure, though, can lead to undesirable behaviors.

Statistics on peer pressure

There are some startling statistics about peer pressure, and what teenagers feel pressured to do. This pressure may be fairly straightforward, with some teens pressuring others to take part in certain activities. In some cases, though, peer pressure is a little more subtle, with clues given to teens that they won’t be “cool” if they don’t participate, even without the overt pressure to do what everyone else is doing. Here are some statistics about peer pressure:

  • The Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base reports that right around 30% if teens are offered drugs in middle school and high school.
  • According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 74.3% of high school students have tried alcohol.
  • 3.1 million teenagers smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
  • The Kaiser Foundation reports that about 50% of teenagers feel pressured with regard to sex in relationships. 

You can see that the peer pressure is on to engage in behaviors that may not be healthy, physically or emotionally, for your teenager. While some teens choose some behaviors when they are ready, many feel rushed into decisions that they are not quite ready to make. Many end up overwhelmed by the consequences of their efforts to fit in with their peer group. It is vitally important that you help your teenager develop the self confidence to withstand peer pressure, and make his or her own decisions.

How parents can combat peer pressure

There is always going to be a certain amount of bowing to peer pressure. Teens naturally want to project the “right” image. However, you can reduce the influence that peer pressure has on your teenagers by making the following moves:

  • Open lines of communication: It is vital that you be understanding and approachable. Teenagers are afraid to come to those who are judgmental or who will subject them to ridicule. Establish a practice of speaking with your child regularly, and listening. Sometimes, your child just needs to feel that you are listening.
  • Have clear expectations: Start when your children are young to have clear expectations for their behavior. Talk to your kids and teens about different subjects of interest. Health and Human Services reports that 59.8% of teenagers that talk with their parents about the dangers of substance use (including alcohol) are more likely to abuse such substances.
  • Know their friends: Get to know your teen’s friends. You should also try to get to know your friends’ parents. Try to make your home an inviting place for your children to bring their friends, so that you can keep an eye on them. Be there for your teen to talk to, and discuss activities that their friends may be involved in, and their inappropriateness if necessary.
  • Be involved: Show your teen that you care. Attend after school activities and sporting events. Listen to them talk about their lives. Show that you are interested in what they are doing. Take time to be together as a family. Teenagers who are involved with their families and have good support systems are less likely to succumb to peer pressure.
  • Talk about the issues: Talk about what is going on with others your kids’ ages. Talk about issues including teen drug use, alcohol, sex and other items. Talk about issues ranging from what’s going on with academics and local politics to how to make better decisions. This can facilitate conversations and help you make clear your expectations.
  • Pick your battles: Understand that some things are less important than others. Letting your teen wear all black or listen to the latest music is less of an issue in many cases. If your teen is not showing deviant behavior, and continues to do well in school, what he or she wears or listens to may not be worth an argument. Your teen will be more willing to listen to you when it really matters if you avoid nit-picking when it doesn’t. 

In the end, you need to encourage your teen to choose good friends who will be supportive of them. And you need to help your teenagers withstand peer pressure by providing a safe support system.

Mental Health

Teen Depression

What is Teen Depression?

Most of us feel sad or unhappy at various times in our life, but teenage depression that extends for a longer lengths of time (usually more than 2 weeks) and that interferes with our daily life is considered to be major depression. This type of teen depression is one that isn’t to be taken lightly and should be treated as early as possible to prevent further problems.

Studies and statistics show that approximately 1 in 8 adolescents may be suffering from depression, a very scary statistic. Even more frightening is that only about 30% of these children who are suffering emotional/mental turmoil are receiving any treatment for it.(1)

Many teens have mood swings or are quick to express anger, but how do you distinguish between normal teenage angst and a more serious problem?

Teenage Depression Warning Signs

Although at times teens will normally go through some of these following signs, when they occur alone for extended periods of time and/or occur in conjunction with each other it’s important to look at what may be causing them.

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sluggishness (less active)
  • Substance abuse
  • Spending more time alone (this includes time alone from you as parents and time away from their regular friends)
  • Decrease in desire to do things they used to like to do (sports, activities, hobbies)
  • Physical ailments (headaches, appetite problems, sleeping problems)
  • Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble, not paying attention in class)
  • Talking about death or suicide (never to be taken lightly)
  • Not caring about appearance
  • Running away from home
  • Blaming self for things that are not their fault
  • Unable to concentrate and/or make decisions

Who’s At Risk for Teen Depression? 

Every teen is at risk in developing major teen depression, but there are certain groups of individuals that are more prone to this type of disorder.

  • Females are more likely to develop adolescent depression than males (about 2x more often)
  • Abused/neglected individuals
  • Children that have or have had long-term/chronic illnesses
  • Teens that have a family history of depression or other mood disorders
  • Teens with family disruptions at home (divorce, death in family, etc)
  • Teens with low self-esteem

Adolescent Depression Treatment Options

Depending on the degree of depression your teen is determined to have, there are several forms of treatment that are available. Only a mental health professional is qualified to determine what would be the best course of treatment for your child. All types of treatment can take place either at home and/or in a residential setting.

  • Medicine (anti-depressants – usually used in addition to other forms of therapy)
  • Individual Therapy -Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – helps to teach healthy ways of thinking
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy – helps to determine interpersonal issues/situations that may be the cause of the depression
  • Group Therapy – individuals with the same affliction meet together to discuss their problems and in turn help each other through their situations

Major adolescent depression, if left untreated, will rarely go away on it’s own. Relapses are extremely common and should always be prevented. Other forms of mental health illnesses are more common as well in depressed teens. If teens are left without help, they may decide to take things into their own hands. They can turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse to help make their pain go away. At it’s worst, teen depression can lead to suicide. According to, teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. We must all do our part in preventing these outcomes as best we can. Early intervention is key. Watch for those warning signs and if observed, seek the necessary help right away.

Teen Depression Sources:

Boot Camps

Brat Camps

The term brat camps is pejorative, condemning either the organizations themselves or the children who are sent there. When referring to a child, it is a disdainful term that blames the child for whatever the issues may be. When referring to an organization that purports to help children, it does not bespeak a professional, licensed and accredited institution, but one at which preteens and teens are treated punitively, without a research-based approach or certified staff overseeing the program.

The term brat camp gained popularity through a reality television show that is no longer produced. On it, teens were treated for a range of different issues, some of which-like ADHD and mood disorders-lead to behaviors that it seems only someone without a true understanding of the condition would callbratty or treat by sending a child to a place with a shape-up-or-ship-out attitude. Other teens were sent to the so-called “brat camps” for issues such as defiance, problems with school, substance abuse, violence, and lying.

In fact, the programs at which the teens on this show were treated aren’t brat camps by any stretch of the imagination and does these organizations a disservice. The truth is that the Turnabout Ranch, Aspen Achievement Academy, and RedCliff Ascent-all in Utah-and the ANASAZI Foundation in Arizona, are all members of NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), which only accepts licensed and accredited member organizations and holds them to a set of Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice. Calling such organizations brat camps is absurd.

The ANASAZI Foundation addresses the brat camp label head-on, stating on their website that the organization “does not consider itself a brat camp. There are no “brats” or “bad kids” at ANASAZI. We help children and young adults (and their caring families) who in some cases have made bad choices.“

Reasons Not To Send Your Child to a Brat Camp

Now let’s summarize the reasons why you should not consider a brat camp if you have a child who needs outside assistance with an issue.

• A brat camp, by its very name, starts off with a lack of respect for the people it is supposed to help. How can a young person be properly diagnosed and treated, assisted to become more mature, and accept guidance and counseling and mentoring from people who reveal before they’ve even met him or her that they have no respect for your child?

• Children who need help need the guidance and insight of people who have been trained and who make decisions on how to proceed based on that training, on research, and on experience. This means that therapists and teachers should be licensed, that the clinical and educational programs should be accredited by a legitimate and well-respected accreditation institution and/or by the state in which it operates, and that the program philosophy should be sound, based on, for example, 12 Step or Christian principles or some other research-based program.

• Punitive institutions, which organizations that disdain their patients tend to be, have been shown to be unsuccessful in long-term results. This means that the whatever issue or issues your child faces will not be well-addressed, and you will be out thousands of dollars for nothing positive.

• Especially for patients with a mental health issue like a mood disorder or a learning disability like ADHD, for whom punishment cannot possibly change their underlying condition, this is a poor choice. Beyond that, for all types of issues, a disrespectful atmosphere and punishment-ridden environment may make things worse instead of better.

• If the underlying cause of the child’s behavior issues is caused by the actions of others, such as physical abuse, incest, or bullying, then the child is only the identified patient: the whole family or whomever is inflicting the abuse needs treatment and sending the child anywhere, even to a reputable, well-run program may not even be able to assist the child properly.

Other Options to Consider

Have an expert, such as your child’s pediatrician, provide a diagnosis if one is possible. Look for a therapeutic environment that advertises itself as dealing specifically with whatever issues have been identified by the expert.

The program should explain its philosophy and approach, identify its credentials and the qualifications of its staff, and provide an overview of the types of issues the staff are qualified to deal with.

Either use a member organization, such as NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), or get a recommendation from the expert, or work with a consultant from an organization like IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) to find an appropriate fit, or-if you do the search yourself-check the program’s credentials before doing anything else.

Once you’ve established that the program might possibly be a good fit, scour their website and look for other information about them to confirm that they provide good results for children with issues like those that face your child.

Parenting Articles

Teen Counseling

The teenage years are challenging for teens and their parents. Teens face many new pressures and may not always react in the healthiest ways to the problems they encounter. In some cases, teens may need counseling to help them cope with their problems. Parents should know the danger signs to look for and how to find a counselor if their teen needs one.

Some of the struggles teens face are a normal part of growing up, like dealing with peer groups, experimenting with new ideas, and going through changes in mood, identity, and interests. Parents can help their teens through some of these issues by talking to them, being patient with them, and creating an environment that is structured and supportive.

Problems that teens and their parents may need a teen counselor’s help to handle include:

  • Changes in family life, like moving, divorce, or a death or serious illness in the family
  • The loss of a close friend or girl or boyfriend through death, a breakup of the relationship, or moving
  • Developing an illness or disability
  • Any kind of substance abuse or addiction
  • Bullying or abuse
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Tragic events in the community or the world 

While some teens can cope with these events better than others, almost all teens will benefit from talking to a counselor about them. Sometimes a teen’s behavior will indicate that there is a serious problem that requires teen therapy. Some of these negative behaviors are:

  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These may include talking, joking, drawing, or writing about suicide or death, giving away cherished possessions, or expressing feelings that they are worthless or that things would be better without them. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 911 or a suicide hotline or get medical help immediately.
  • Symptoms of depression, like being withdrawn, lack of appetite, sleeping very little or more than 9 hours per night, loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, neglecting personal hygiene, or crying for no reason or seeming sad for longer than two weeks.
  • Violent behavior, harming or threatening to harm themselves or others, including animals
  • Suddenly gaining or losing a lot of weight, which could indicate a life-threatening eating disorder
  • Extreme, rapid changes in moods or personality, or drastic changes that last more than six weeks
  • Running away from home
  • Illegal activities
  • Behavior problems at school
  • Using tobacco, drugs, or alcohol
  • A sudden change in friends
  • Risky sexual behavior or sexual promiscuity
  • Other risky or dangerous behavior
  • Noticeable changes in school performance or attendance 

Teens who exhibit any of these signs should be taken to a doctor to check for medical conditions that may lead to negative behaviors. A stay in the hospital may be necessary for a teen who is suicidal or experiencing severe medical problems. Therapy and counseling is an important part of treating these problems. Individual or group therapy can help teens to:

  • Understand why their behaviors are negative, and how to cope better
  • Recognize and change negative thoughts that may cause or trigger their behaviors
  • Find better ways to solve problems
  • Learn better social skills 

Doctors or schools can usually recommend a therapist, or parents can talk to other parents or look in the phone book for counselors. In the teen is not covered by insurance, a school counselor or a therapist at a local clinic can usually provide free or inexpensive counseling.

The different types of therapists who can counsel teens are:

  • Adolescent Psychiatrists – medical doctors trained to deal with mental illnesses and prescribe medications
  • Adolescent Psychologists – professionals trained to help people with mental illnesses; they can prescribe medications in some states
  • Social workers – professionals who help counsel and guide people with problems
  • Licensed mental health counselors – therapists who have studied how to provide teen therapy
  • Psychiatric nurses – registered nurses with special training in counseling 

Regardless of the type of counselor a teen sees, make sure that the counselor is licensed, has experience treating teens in similar situations, and is someone the teen and his or her parents feel comfortable with.

There are several types of adolescent counseling that may benefit troubled teens:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens reduce their negative thought patterns and increase positive behaviors.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on how the teen relates to other people.
  • Problem-solving therapy teaches teens positive ways to cope with their problems.
  • Group therapy allows teens to meet with others who have similar issues and talk about their problems under the supervision of a counselor. Online therapy groups are not recommended for teens because they are often not well monitored and can have negative results.
  • Family therapy is also beneficial in helping teens and their families understand and deal with teen problems. 

Some teen counselors may recommend medications to help teens, especially if the teen has a physical or mental illness. Though medications improve the quality of life of many teens, medications may have negative side effects that parents should be watchful for, especially suicidal behaviors.

In severe cases, teen counselors may recommend alternative therapies, but the long-term effects of alternative treatments may be dangerous for teens. Teens and their parents should try to find out all they can about alternative treatments before trying them, and need to inform their therapist of any treatments they want to try on their own.

Teen Counseling and Teen Therapy Sources:
WebMD, Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 – When to Call a Doctor [online], Depression in Childhood and Adolescence [online]
Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth for Parents, Emotions and Behavior [online] from the Nemours Foundation, Understanding Depression [online]
Parents: The Anti-Drug [online]
U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, Depression signs in Teenagers [online]
Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, A Family Guide, Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, Depression Hurts [online]


Student Credit Cards for Teens

This article on student credit cards is the first of many on teaching teen’s responsibility. Written by parents for parents.

One of the debates raging right now regarding teenagers centers around teen credit cards. While some insist that teen credit cards can help teach important money management skills, others say that teen credit cards do little more than get teenagers used to the idea of using plastic to pay for items.

What are teen credit cards?

Teen credit cards are actually “prepaid” or “secure” credit cards. They aren’t true credit cards in the sense that they belong only to a teenager and are open and revolving lines of credit. Instead, programs like Visa Buxx and MasterCard Allow, are designed so that the only money teenagers can spend is money that is already on the card.

Here’s how it works: You sign up for the account. You are on the account, as well as your teenager. You begin with an initial deposit that serves as the “limit.” Every month “payments” are made, increasing what is available on the card (or simply replacing the money that is spent).

The best practice, from the standpoint of teaching money management to teens, is to have the teenager make the “payments” and keep track of his or her spending. This can help teens get a better idea of how much money they are spending, and get used to the idea that even though they are using a credit card, they still have to pay for what they spend.

It is important to impress upon teenagers the importance of keeping track of what is spent on these cards. Overages can result in fees. Once fees are assessed, another “payment” adding money to the account won’t be worth as much, since fees are deducted as soon as the account gets back in the black. Personal finance software or a ledger can help your teenager keep track of expenses and update balances. Make sure you show your teenager how to balance the statement at the end of each month, and explain the importance of this action.

Opening one of these types of accounts in your teenager’s name can help him or her build credit, offering a head start in life.

Adding your teenager to your credit card account

Another option in teen credit cards is to add your teenager as an “authorized user” to your credit card account. This will give the teenager his or her own credit card to use, but it is in your name. This allows you to see exactly where the money is going.

In order to ensure that your teenager is learning money management skills, many experts suggest that you let your teenager know how much was spent each month, and have him or her pay for that portion. You might even consider figuring the amount of interest that your teen’s purchases accrue. Be sure to go through everything with your teenager so that he or she sees that spending money on a student credit card results in interest charges beyond what is originally spent. Explain that using credit to buy things is like getting a loan, and that it costs money to borrow money.

It is important to note that with new rules from Fair Isaac, an “authorized user” no longer gains the same credit score status as it used to. This means that adding a teenager to your credit card probably won’t help him or her build credit particularly well.

Opening a new credit card account for your teenager

It is important to note that technically, debt cannot be offered to someone under the age of 18. This means that teenagers should not have their own credit card. Teen credit cards get around this by using the “prepaid” and “secured” credit cards, as well as by having parents as the primary borrowers.

If you want to open a credit card account for your teenager, you will have to open with you as the primary borrower. Even if the teen makes the payments on the credit card, it is still technically yours. However, in such cases it is possible for your teen to begin building credit. A credit card account opened in this manner is very similar to co-signing on a loan. You will get copies of all the statements, and you can watch for irresponsible behavior, such as missing payments.

Teaching teens to use credit cards responsibly

Teen credit cards can be great tools in helping teach money management. If opened correctly, they can also help your teenager begin building credit. However, it is important to stress appropriate use of credit cards. Watch carefully. If your teenager misses a payment, it is a good idea to revoke credit card privileges. You also need to make sure that your teenager is exposed to the very real consequences of interest, and the fact that credit cards aren’t “free money.”

If your teen or young adult has a job then you can help them build credit in college or high school and learn some basic finance skills. In a world were good credit is becoming more and more important you can help your young adult become qualified to purchase a home at a younger age as well as life-long skills.

Ideas on how to teach your child about credit by allowing them to use a college student credit card:
1. Keep the credit card limit to $250 or $500.
2. Make sure they understand they must pay the bill.
3. Show them expense tracking and budgeting.
4. Eliminate bad cash spending habits.
5. Set rules for spending (what is ok to buy).
6. Explain the fees, interest, and grace period.
7. Pay-off credit card balance each month.

Finding the best student credit card:

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  • 0% Intro period
  • Points, Miles, or other rewards


While teaching your young adult good spending habits and financial responsibility make sure to discuss the dangers of too much credit. This would include: over-extension, debt accumulation, credit scoring and how it works, and the problems with debt at a high rate of interest.

Use your good judgement on deciding if a college student credit card is right for your young adult or teen. It may be too early to transfer such responsibility, but the sooner you discuss these types of things the better off you’ll be in the long run.


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Programs For Troubled Teens

Wilderness Programs

What is a Wilderness Program?

Wilderness programs are more specifically called Outdoor Therapy Wilderness programs, schools or camps. Which describes just about what they do. They provide therapy in a outdoor camp setting. Usually campers do a lot of walking or hiking and have evening group therapy sessions. Teens get to ‘rough it’ for a month or more. Wilderness programs are not typically accredited schools, but sometimes they can issue credit for physical education. Wilderness programs recently became popular because of the TV show Brat Camp.

Which teens are appropriate for Wilderness Programs?

Wilderness Programs are short term, typically 30-90 days. Most include therapy, so are good for the teen that needs a ‘quick fix’. A teen that is getting into mild trouble at school or has just started talking negatively could benefit from a wilderness program.

Which teens are NOT appropriate for Wilderness Programs?

Wilderness programs are not appropriate for teens who need long term help. This would include teens who have been abusing drugs or alcohol, getting into a lot of trouble at school, or have other emotional or behavioral problems. Teens who have been to other ‘quick fix’ type programs and have returned to the old behaviors need more long term help.

Why are Wilderness Programs not appropriate for Behavior Modification?

Because Wilderness Programs are short term, they do not give the teen enough time to make any lasting changes. Although most wilderness programs include therapy, they are not able to spend the time working with the teens to delve deep into the causes of the problems of the teen who is having emotional and behavioral problems.

How much does a Wilderness Program cost?

Wilderness programs are very expensive because they include therapy and are short term. Wilderness programs feel they can charge more because they are shorter in length and parents are willing to pay more for the therapy. The costs range between $13,000 to $30,000 for the 30-90 day stay.