When to Intervene if Your Teen is Struggling

As parents, we want our teens to be responsible and independent, but we can also feel the need to intervene when they’re struggling. How do we find a balance?

Remember that struggle is a part of your teen’s development. Overcoming difficulties is how your teen learns to cope and mature into a capable adult. However, in certain situations your teen may require your help, even if they don’t ask for it. Knowing when to let them handle their own issues and when you should step in will help your teen become a more self-reliant individual who knows that they still have the support of loved ones.

When to Let Them Learn

teen looking out window

Image Credit: Unsplash

If you notice your teen struggling with something that isn’t a high-risk situation, let them try dealing with it on their own. A few examples include:

  • Disliking a sports team or club they’ve joined
  • Starting an assignment too close to the deadline
  • Being too tired to make it to class on time because they stayed up too late
  • Making too many social commitments
  • Spending too much on unnecessary items

The source of the above problems is usually an error in judgement or a mismanagement of time or money. These issues are ones that your teen must learn to handle on their own. But this doesn’t mean you need to cut them off entirely. Offer advice on how to cope or better manage their time and money next time. For example, if they don’t have money to go on a trip with friends, help them start a savings plan instead of giving them cash.

You aren’t doing them any favors if you bail them out every time they wake up late or miss a deadline. Children whose parents always come to the rescue won’t progress and learn to deal with discomfort or the consequences of poor decisions. Making mistakes is a part of growing up, but if teens never get the opportunity to correct their mistakes, they miss out on major learning opportunities. Even more, they won’t achieve a sense of pride and accomplishment for when they successfully resolve an issue.

When You Should Intervene

parent and teen sitting

Image Credit: donwhite84

There’s a difference between teachable moments and serious issues. If your child is grappling with something bigger than themselves, like a mental health condition, grief or an addiction, they need you to step in and help set them on the right track.

If you notice a drastic change in your teen’s behavior, it could be a sign that whatever they’re struggling with is getting the best of them. If their grades start to slip, or they seem unusually sad or anxious, they need a guiding hand.

Have an open, non-judgemental conversation with your teen to gauge what might be the source of the issue. While sticking it out with that sports team or part-time job builds character, if something is affecting your teen’s mental or physical health, you can help them make life adjustments to address the problem.

It could be that they need you to put your foot down when it’s time for bed, or they need help developing better study habits. Offer yourself as a resource to help your teen overcome their struggle. If you sense that there might be a deeper issue out of your control, seek the help of a therapist.

It can be hard to judge when your teen needs you to step in. Pay attention to your teen’s overall wellness. Let them know that even if you won’t solve their problems for them, you always have their back.

Feature Image: Jacob Walti