Troubled Teen Issues

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is very common in families with more than one child, and it’s part of growing up for most kids, but it can be destructive to families and individuals. Parents can’t stop all sibling rivalry, but they can help make it a learning experience rather than a traumatic one.

Sibling rivalry occurs when siblings fight or act out against each other. Most kids experience sibling rivalry from time to time. Even when they love their siblings they may still have episodes of sibling rivalry as part of the growing up process. There are some common reasons for sibling rivalry in children and teens:

  • They are discovering their own identities and need to establish their independence from family members
  • They have conflicting personalities, such as one sibling who is laid back while the other is very active
  • They feel like one sibling is getting an unfair amount of attention. This can be especially challenging if one sibling has an illness, disability, or other problem that requires more attention
  • They feel like it is unfair that one sibling gets different privileges, such as an older sibling who has more freedom, or a younger child who has fewer chores.
  • They have not yet learned positive ways to solve conflicts
  • They are bored, hungry, or tired
  • There is stress or aggression in the family, such as parents getting a divorce, a teen who fights frequently with parents, or financial problems in the family 

Regardless of the reasons for sibling rivalry, the fighting can cause stress and unhappiness for everyone in the family. Parents may be frustrated not knowing how to react when siblings fight. Some general guidelines for parents while siblings are fighting include:

  • If possible, don’t get involved in the fight and let children resolve their own conflicts unless someone is getting hurt.
  • If you must intervene in the fight, separate the children until they are both calm enough to talk about what happened.
  • Don’t yell at the siblings who are fighting, since this may only escalate the aggression.
  • Don’t assign blame or try to figure out who started it – both siblings were fighting so both are responsible for the conflict.
  • Don’t appear to favor or protect one child.
  • Don’t assume that the younger child is always the victim. Younger children are just as capable of older ones at starting fights, and older siblings still may not have the maturity to handle the situation well. 

Though parents cannot prevent all sibling rivalry, there are things they can do to reduce the frequency and severity of fights, depending on the causes. Some of these things include:

  • Talk to each child alone every day, and tell them that you love them. Even spending ten minutes with a child can reassure them that you care about them and give you a chance to find out what’s going on in their lives.
  • Spend positive time together as a family. Try to eat one meal together every day without the TV, and find time to do fun family activities like playing games or going for walks. This will strengthen family relationships and make kids more willing to work out their problems. Be sure, however, that the activities address the interests of all the children so they don’t feel like they are being forced to participate in one child’s activities.
  • Appreciate each child as an individual, and don’t compare children to their siblings.
  • Hold family meetings to set rules, like no hitting or name-calling, and explain what the consequences will be for any child who breaks these rules, regardless of who starts a conflict. Remind children that they are all part of the family and that you love each of them.
  • Help children to understand that sometimes being fair does not mean being equal. A teenager may have more freedom, but also may have more responsibilities. A child with special needs may get more attention because he or she needs the extra help.
  • Let children and teens have some time and space to themselves, and let them have some special possessions they don’t have to share.
  • If children are fighting over something like a computer game or the TV, create a schedule so each gets equal time using it. Let them know if the fighting continues that whatever they are fighting over will be taken away. Giving each child their own TV or computer may not be a good solution because it doesn’t teach compromise and may lead to family members being isolated in their rooms without supervision or family interaction.
  • Set a good example. When you are angry, don’t yell, throw things, or call others names. If you need help with anger management, don’t hesitate to get help. 

If sibling rivalry is causing serious problems in the family, is physically or emotionally harmful to one or more family members, or is caused by an outside source of stress like parents’ divorce, loss of a job, or an illness in the family, consider getting counseling for your family. Most communities offer low-cost or free family counseling services for families who cannot afford counseling on their own.

Also, be aware of sibling abuse, which is when one sibling is always the victim and is frightened of and being hurt by the other, physically or verbally. This may look different from sibling rivalry because the victim usually won’t fight back or defend him or herself and may become depressed or anxious. Remember that older children and teens can be the victims of younger siblings. In cases of sibling abuse, parents should seek immediate help for both of the siblings.

Sibling Rivalry Sources:

University of Michigan Health System, YourChild Development and Behavior Resources, “Sibling Rivalry” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Sibling Rivalry” [online]
The Ohio State University Extension, Backpack Buddies, “Understanding Sibling Rivalry” [online]

Troubled Teen Issues

At Risk Youth

Welcome to our site! is designed for parents and teens to gather information about at risk youth and teen issues. We have created pages with statistics and resources from many different sources.

Teen issues included on this site include : teen drug abuse, teenage alcoholism, teen pregnancy, disorders, and more! We also have data on various types of schools, programs, and treatment options available to parents of at risk youth. To find more information on any of these types – Use the links at the header of each page.

There are a lot of websites out there that talk about “at risk youth”, but there is no real definition that fits this term (in our opinion). We have seen people refer to inner city kids that live in poor neighborhoods as at risk youth, but are they really more at risk than any other? Drugs, alcohol, and youth violence are prominent in almost every area of the United States. Single parent homes, dysfunctional family units, and other social issues have no boundaries either. So we’ve developed this site with a little something for everyone.

Here’s our definition of an at risk youth (this is our opinion): We believe any child that grows up in this world is “At-Risk” in some way. Children will be exposed to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” at a very early age. Teens will know other kids that do drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. Some parents will do all they can to raise their kids right – and their kids may still make poor choices. The statistics we have gathered are amazing. At risk youth can be either sex, any race, and any age. Each “group” has a different area where they are more at risk, but they are all youth at risk.

We appreciate you coming to our site to gather resources about the issues that teens face today. We hope that you can find help for your individual situation to help your child or adolescent.

Troubled Teen Issues

Adolescent Development

An Uncharted Path

As much as we know about adolescent development based on research and studies, it is impossible to explain to a pre-teen what the experience will be like. Who can understand before it’s happened what it will mean to adjust to the hormonal changes of adolescence, feel comfortable driving a car, go to college, or fall in love with somebody?

An Emotional Roller Coaster

The emotional experience of adolescence may take a pre-teen with a well-established identity and turn him or her upside-down. The habits and self-image a child has developed may not fit, and trying to integrate new feelings, and new capabilities as well, is more challenging for some teens than for others. It really can be a time of identity crisis.

In part, a teen’s coping mechanisms will depend on those around him or her. An adolescent with a supportive family and a good set of friends, who doesn’t happen to become the target of a bully or clique, will—in general—have an easier time.

But as good as one’s support group is, experiencing, for example, a monthly cycle of hormonal changes and trying to grasp the reality that one can feel upset, not because one is “really” upset but because of one’s hormones, is bound to provide a certain amount of challenge.

Social Changes

In addition to identity issues, adolescents experience a shift from the strong family ties of early childhood to stronger peer ties, especially if they have a romantic relationship. Shifting allegiances put the teen in a new relationship to people, including those he or she has known all his or her life.

And our school structure doesn’t make it easier.

One teen going through the emotional fluctuations of early adolescence is one thing. But in the US, we pack them all together into middle schools where they are separate from the calmer influence of both those who are younger and haven’t reached that stage and those older, who have begun to develop mechanisms to handle it. In other words, we create a problem by putting early adolescents in place where everyone is comparing their own physical development to everyone else, and everyone is, at least slightly, out of control of their emotional lives.

One characterization of middle grade students mentions:

• the erratic, inconsistent behavior,

• feeling shifts between extremes of bravado on the on hand and fear and anxiety on the other,

• hormonal and chemical imbalances,

• extreme sensitivity to criticism,

• exaggeration of their own problems,

• feeling of being the only one who experiences what they experience,

• falling for dubious arguments,

• holding naïve opinions, and

• psychologically at-risk.

These characteristics can also extend beyond middle school. Is it any surprise that there are so many reports of bullying, teasing, fights, and tears among younger adolescents?

Separating the Normal Teen from the Troubled Teen

With all of these factors, it is likely that any teen will act in a disturbed or disturbing way at some point, due to one or more of these factors. A formerly respectful and loving pre-teen may talk back, call a parent names, strike a brother or sister, barricade him- or herself in his or her bedroom, stop confiding and even pretty much stop communicating, and/or break household rules (like curfews) for the first time. You may see appetite changes, sleep changes, tears, anger, and invective towards others as well as self-directed, and amazingly, this may all be within the normal bounds of adolescent development.

Especially is you are dealing with your oldest child, this can be alarming. Here are some hints that, taken along with professional opinions—such as that of your child’s teachers, guidance counselor, and pediatrician—will help you know when to get help and when to let things ride.

• First, if a child mentions, refers to, or takes any action that suggests suicide to you, get immediate help. There are suicide hotlines and other crisis lines that can help you talk your child through the situation while expert help is on the way.

• Try to ensure that your child has adults around—even if not you—in whom he or she can confide, whether an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a minister, family friend, godparent, etc.

• If you suspect your child is engaging in any activity that is illegal or dangerous—whether damaging the property of others, using drugs or alcohol, or engaging in underage sexual activity—gather information from an expert you trust on how to identify and deal with the particular issue. Apparent signs of illicit activity could be something quite different, and an unfounded accusation could create at least a temporary barrier to trust between you and your child.

• As the characterization of middle school students indicates, students may act in uncharacteristic and even bizarre ways without anything being wrong other than the fact that adolescence is difficult. If you are concerned that there is a deeper issue, consult a professional who can offer you guidance.

If you genuinely can’t tell how bad things are, you could try telling your child how concerned you are and asking if he or she needs help.


Troubled Teen Issues

Teen Shoplifting

“Five finger discount”, “lifting”, “jacking”, “racking”, “nicking”, and “boosting” are some of the slang terms used for shoplifting. No matter what name is used, shoplifting is a crime. Teen shoplifting is a rising problem nationwide. Whatever reasons a teen may shoplift varies but must be addressed in a timely manner. The sooner a teen is caught for shoplifting, the sooner the teen’s behavior can be corrected before it becomes a habitual plunder down a winding path to nowhere. The National Crime Prevention Council has stated that 25% of people that get apprehended for shoplifting are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Shoplifting costs retailers millions of dollars a day. A lot of the expense of shoplifting is absorbed by raising prices of products which can help the retailer with their losses.

Reasons for shoplifting

Most of the time the reasons teens give for shoplifting is because they were bored and didn’t have anything better to do. This reasoning is shocking and should alert parents to watch their teens closely and involve their teens in more wholesome activities. Once a teen has experienced the so called “rush” that goes along with getting away with stealing, it’s much harder to stop the behavior. Parents need to be aware of other reasons teens may fall prey to the temptation of shoplifting.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure among teens plays an important role when it comes to shoplifting. With the expensive name brands in clothing lines, teens are trying to keep up with their peers that wear the latest and greatest in today’s fashion industry. Electronics have also become a popular industry among teens with the mp3 players, cell phones, video games, and other small expensive items. New and improved products are always coming out and teens need to feel they have the “best” to compete with their peers. When teens are faced with the lack of money which buys these enticing items, they may turn to shoplifting or “lifting” as some teens will call it.

Parent involvement

Parents need to be aware of their teen and notice any new items of clothing and or device. Don’t be afraid to ask your teen where they attained their new treasures. Being observant allows the teen to know their parents care and would reduce the need to steal substantially. As small children we can all remember the time we stole candy from the cash register line, opening it in the car feeling happy until our mom or dad noticed and reprimanded us for stealing. The loving parent then returned to the store so we could apologize to the store manager and pay for the candy. What a great teaching tool and impression this can make on the young child. Teaching children the value of honesty can be a great lesson learned as they grow throughout their life. When faced with the pressures to shoplift, they can remember their childhood experiences and would in turn refrain from stealing.

Consequences for teen shoplifting

Some teens may shoplift on a dare made by a friend or may want to feel accepted by a group of friends that shoplift regularly. In some cases, teens may shoplift simply for attention from friends and family. This kind of behavior should not be reinforced and should be treated with understanding. The teen needs to know the consequences of stealing enough to never want to shoplift. Teens that are caught shoplifting are detained instantly. Parents may be called and notified to pick up his or her child. Shoplifters may be handcuffed and publicly escorted through the store to the manager’s office. Multiple shoplifting offenses may earn a criminal record making it harder to be hired for jobs or get accepted to a college of choice. Shoplifters who are caught but not prosecuted may have their names placed in a database that some employers have access to and could prevent future hiring’s for jobs.

Resolving shoplifting behavior

Parents should not make excuses for their teen that is caught shoplifting. This only teaches the teen disrespect for authority. The teen must recognize their behavior as wrong no matter what the reason was for stealing. Parents can genuinely listen to their teen to find the root of the criminal behavior. Understanding is crucial in resolving any problem a teen might face. Keeping the lines of communication open and allowing the teen to trust his or her parents by keeping their confidences may cause a break through in the teen’s unlawful behavior. If shoplifting tendencies are not addressed or resolved during adolescence, the behavior may be carried out into adult life with bigger implications and punishments. Shoplifting is a serious crime and should not be treated lightly but as an opportunity to teach our children to become honest citizens of society.

Troubled Teen Issues

Expelled Teen

Your child has been suspended or expelled from school. Maybe this isn’t the first time. Maybe it’s not the first school. Please understand you are not alone. Hundreds of children, beginning with kindergarten age, are suspended or expelled from school each year. These are bright kids who have a lot of potential yet they enter into the type of behavior that necessitates separating them from the other students.

Each school district has its own list of behaviors for which students are suspended or expelled but they are much the same.

1. Threatened, attempted, or caused physical injury to another person.
2. Possessed, sold, or furnished firearm, knife, or other dangerous object.
3. Possessed, used, or sold any controlled substance.
4. Offered, furnished or sold any substance represented to be a controlled substance.
5. Robbery or extortion.
6. Caused or tried to cause damage to the school or private property.
7. Stole or tried to steal school or private property.
8. Possessed or used tobacco.
9. Obscene acts or habitual profanity.
10. Offered or sold drug paraphernalia.
11. Disrupted school activities and defied authority of school personnel.

In our society these behaviors are not tolerated. People committing these acts are jailed and those who love them wonder why they made the choices they did.

Let’s not let it get that far. Let’s figure out now what the problem is and take the necessary steps now to turn a life around.

Behavior is only the outward manifestation of what is going on in the mind

Your teen didn’t get to this point overnight. It is important to not only find the problem but to help the student overcome the problem and be able to experience success.

It is very difficult for families to realize a child has a behavior problem. Parents may not think the child’s behavior is unusual for his age and that he will grow out of it. They may think the behavior is only an individual trait.

In making a determination, it is helpful to consider how much your child’s behavior is upsetting you, the child, and the family as a whole. If your child’s aggressive, argumentative, or withdrawn behaviors are upsetting to the family, it’s time to seek help.

Additionally, there are three guidelines to help determine whether your child has a behavioral disorder. First, how long has your child been exhibiting the behavior? Second, how intense is the behavior? For instance, most children will have temper tantrums but do these actually frighten you? Third, how old is the child? How does the behavior compare to other children of the same age?

If your child is exhibiting thoughts of suicide, hurting himself, or being so withdrawn that he cannot interact with others or go through daily routines, you need to seek immediate help from mental health professionals.

While your child is in school, he has access to school counselors and other education specialists who know which behaviors are normal and which show a need for help. When a child is suspended, parents can still get help from these sources and possibly get recommendations for other health specialists who can help.

What options are there now that your teen has been expelled?

– Home School? Yes, your teen may get the academics, the grades, and the knowledge. But he will not learn to interact with others in a positive manner, and the original problem still exists.

– Alternative School? The focus at an alternative school is to finish the coursework for graduation. There is no focus on the original problem of why the student could not succeed socially in the regular school setting and again, the original problem still exists.

– Specialty School? There are several different kinds of specialty schools and programs. There are wilderness programs “boot camps” military schools, and religious schools. Some include academics and some do not. Some programs are an intense “wake up call” that last about a month, and others are long term. Some focus only on the child and some involve the entire family in the healing process.

If your child has a behavior disorder, one month of intense “wake up” won’t change anything. It also won’t change the peer group he has or his involvement with drugs and/or weapons.

Where Do I Start?

A good place to start to find the right answer for your child is to make a list of the problems you can see such as drugs, violence, failing grades, abuse of family members, withdrawal. Once you have your list, contact us!

An educational consultant will be able to address your child’s specific needs and suggest some schools or programs that can meet those needs.

I know that at this point it feels overwhelming but there are a lot of people who can help. I have seen it work; I have seen kids go from angry, violent, addicts who “hate” their families to happy smiling kids who cherish their families. Your teen can get the smile back too.

Troubled Teen Issues

Teen Anger

Teen Anger and Teen Violence Statistics

There are many different statistics out showing the effects for teen anger on everything from dating to school to home life. The following are some startling statistics on teen violence:

  • According to more than 1 in 3 high school students, both male and female, have been involved in a physical fight. 1 in 9 of those students have been injured badly enough to need medical treatment.
  • The 2002 National Gang Trends Survey (NGTS) stated that there are more than 24,500 different street gangs in the United States alone. More than 772,500 of the members of these gangs are teens and young adults.
  • The 2002 NGTS also showed that teens and young adults involved in gang activity are 60 times more likely to be killed than the rest of the American population.
  • A 2001 report released by the U.S. Department of Justice claims that 20 out of 1000 women ages 16 to 24 will experience a sexual assault while on a date. And that 68% of all rape victims know their attackers.
  • The U.S. Justice report also stated that 1 in 3 teens, both male and female, have experienced some sort of violent behavior from a dating partner.

Although all of the statistics focus on differing topics they all point to one frightening conclusion, teen anger and violence is now, and has been for several years, a problem in our society.

Angry Teens and Violence Warning Signs

The National Youth Violence Prevention Center has compiled the following list of warning signs that your teen may be having anger management issues:

  • Frequent loss of temper over small issues,
  • Frequent physical fighting with friends, acquaintances and family members,
  • Damaging property while in a fit of anger,
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol,
  • Written plans for violent acts,
  • Carrying a weapon(s),
  • Been the victim of school bullies,
  • Gang affiliations,
  • Failure to acknowledge the feelings of others
  • Fascination with weapons and
  • Cruelty to animals.

What to do with an angry teen?

Most teen management professionals agree that dealing with a teen with an anger problem should start at home. They believe that most teen anger comes from underlying emotional problems such as fear or rejection or failure. Suggestions on what to do when your teen has an anger management issue include:

  • Give them support and understanding. Try to get to the real issue not just what is on the surface.
  • Let them know that everyone has negative emotions and that it’s okay to get angry, but it’s not okay to lash out because of their anger.
  • Watch for triggers and find a way to deflect the anger into something more appropriate.
  • Help them to recognize the feelings that cause the anger and how to deal with them before they get out of control.

If all else fails, check into professional help for your angry child. However, a mental health professional is not someone you should just pick out of a telephone book, do your research. Ask around for referrals; don’t worry about what others might think as there are more families dealing with teen anger than not these days. It may also do you some good to know you are not alone in your struggles. Make sure the person you choose has the same values and viewpoint as you; you don’t want your child to get conflicting information from you and their counselor. Meet with the person prior to setting up an appointment for your angry teen. Check into family counseling as well; remember teen anger isn’t just your child’s problem.

Troubled Teen Issues

Out of Control Teens

Out of Control Teens

It’s a fairly natural process: Many teenagers rebel against their parents in some way. They also become moody and difficult in some cases. This is because teenagers are still developing, and the teen years represent some of the most rapid changes that the body goes through once beyond early childhood. On top of that, teenagers are experiencing a new range of emotions and urges as their hormones become active. There is a lot for teens to deal with as they grow up, and this can lead to some conflict in the home. However, occasional arguments and some moodiness and a degree of rebellion are all normal. What isn’t normal, though, is an out of control teen that becomes regularly violent and willfully and consciously defiant at every turn.

Signs that you have an out of control teen (or defiant, struggling, rebellious teen)

There are signs that you might have an out of control teen on your hands. An out of control teen or troubled teen persists regularly and often in the following behaviors for at least six months:

  • Constantly losing one’s temper.
  • Regularly arguing with adults.
  • Defying requests actively and often.
  • Refusing to follow rules.
  • Trying to deliberately annoy others.
  • Constantly blaming other people for their misbehavior, poor choices or mistakes.
  • Showing spitefulness and vindictiveness regularly.
  • Being very touchy and easily angered. 

Many of these teenagers are very stubborn and continually push the boundaries. While there is a certain amount of testing with all teenagers, an out of control teen pushes the limits on everything, and is actively defiant about his or her behavior. An out of control teen shows no remorse for behavior that negatively affects friends and family, and shows aggression, rather than the normal teenage moodiness and occasional rule breaking.

Risk factors for an out of control teen

There are different reasons that a struggling teen might spiral out of control. Some risk factors have to do with genetic disposition, and others have to do with environment. And some are due to the influence of peer pressure. Some of the things that can influence whether or not a teen develops out of control behaviors and habits include:

  • Favorable attitude of parents toward rebellious behavior.
  • Conflict in the family and/or witness family violence.
  • Friends who abuse substances or engage in delinquent behavior.
  • Rejection by peers.
  • Family history of mental disorders, addiction or problem behavior.
  • Traumatic experiences in childhood. 

Current family stresses can also cause out of control teen behavior. Financial stress, divorce, inconsistency in parenting techniques, very punitive practices in the family and severe illness or other family challenges can all result in a situation that a teenager finds difficult to deal with. This can in turn result in problem behavior as the teen looks for an outlet.

Another factor is a desire to be accepted. Some struggling teenagers develop out of control and problem behaviors as they attempt to be accepted by their peers. They might engage in substance abuse, illegal behaviors and other actions in order to find acceptance. These acts can, in turn, lead to destructive behaviors that can cause problems for the family, as well as for the teenager. In some cases, out of control teens develop violent tendencies that can threaten younger family members.

Helping to head off an out of control or defiant teen

There are some different things you can try in order to attempt to head off an out of control teen. You want to be able to help your struggling teenager cope with the challenges being presented, if possible. Some of the things that can help keep a teenager away from out of control behavior include:

  • Family counseling. (Individual counseling may be needed as well.)
  • Learning techniques for providing consistent parenting.
  • Creating a loving home environment.
  • Showing interest in your child’s activities.
  • Talking about your expectations of ethical and moral behavior.
  • Listening to your teen and communicating regularly with him or her.
  • Encouraging teenagers to participate in healthy extracurricular activities.
  • Meeting your kids’ friends, and their parents.
  • Remaining the adult – and the parent – even when sometimes you’d rather be “cool.”
  • Avoiding arguments and trying to reason with your teenager when she or he is upset. Acknowledge a teen’s position without condoning it.
  • Pick your battles. Don’t judge everything your teen says, does or listens to. Look for the important things, and don’t get too fussed about unimportant matters. 

In the end, your response to the situation can be important. If you show that you are supportive and want to help, this can be a way to rein in an out of control teen. However, there might times when nothing works, and you have no choice but to send a teen away for the good of the family. We have many options for these situations.