You didn’t used to be a desperate parent. When you first started down the parenthood path, it was a fresh-paved straight line. Lots of flowers, lots of bumblebees. Smiling mommies pushed their high-zoot strollers along next to you.
Second grade and the path went curvy. You spotted a couple clouds. You tried smiling at the other parents, but their eyes were on their phones.
By fifth grade it wasn’t a path anymore. It was a twisty, rock-strewn trail. And those other parents? They had taken up running. They zipped by so fast, you couldn’t see their faces. Thank God the trail had streetlights; it was getting pretty dark.
At middle school, the trail was switchbacks and dead ends. Because all the streetlights had been slingshotted out, you couldn’t see the hazards on the trail; you felt them as you twisted your ankle and barked your shin. At least those other parents couldn’t see you stumble; they dissappeared in 6th grade.
And bam, high school. You’re hobbling blind.
And bam, high school. Your teen is struggling, but you don’t know how to find help. You’re hobbling blind, playing host to that shiver-spine feeling: you’re not alone out here anymore. Somebody’s watching you. Somebody’s preying on you. And you’re right. I’m sorry. You’re right.
This week I did a search for publications that cater to the desperate parent of teens. I wanted to pitch some articles, to share my insight as a fomer “troubled teen,” a veteran alternative school teacher, and a teen life coach. I’ve got knowledge; I’ve got real help for teens. But where are the magazines? Where are the blogs for parents of teens?
They pretty much don’t exist. The glossies deal with babies; with elementary kids you can still dress up like dollies. The big blogs, if you’re lucky, throw a nod at middle school. But if you’re a desperate parent looking for help for teens—when you and your kid most need it—you’re S.O.L.
If you’re looking for help for teens, you’re S.O.L.
…Unless you can afford to send your kid away. Because that’s the help on offer. Residential treatment programs. Therapeutic boarding schools. Bootcamps. Places that will get your teen out of your hair, in exchange for a whole lot of money.
Google “help for teens,” and the first four hits are program ads. For “troubled” girls and “rebellious” boys. Underneath you’ll find a help line where teens can connect with teens (alleluiah!), a publication affiliated with Harvard (ok, good…), then a blatant ad for a drug rehab, and a rehab ad pretending to be a “we want to help you” resource. Plus WebM.D. featuring six “sponsored ads.”
So about 90% of the available help for teens is big-money/questionable-methods, and 10% is reputable and benevolent. And even worse, the “questionable intent” programs cloak themselves with manipulative advertising. So yeah. You’re not alone in those woods. The “troubled teen” industry is out there waiting for you.
I posted my findings on facebook, and a mom said this: “When your child is young, it’s super easy to go to a mom support group. You seek advice on sleep and teething and don’t feel judged. But where can moms of teens go to talk about rebellion, sexuality, substance abuse, bullying, and not feel judged?”
Where can moms of teens go…and not feel judged?
Another mom told me, “There are day-by-day apps for parents. Messages like, ‘If your kid’s cranky with a low-grade fever, don’t worry, he’s teething.’ But my friend has 13-year-old son. She’s lost. She’s looking for her ‘it takes a village’ tribe, but they’re in hiding. No more day by day help for puberty, I guess.”
School social workers tell me there are zero counselors in the area specializing in teens. Parents contact me from the other side of the country, describing adolescent psychiatrists with a 6-month-long waiting list.
You guys: WHY IS THERE NO HELP FOR TEENS? Are we allergic to teenagers? Do we think they’re possessed? Contagious? Is our only option to lock them up and psychologically beat them ‘til they obey?
As a teen, I spent 16 months locked in the granddaddy “troubled teen” program, Straight Inc. When I got out, I was suicidal. When my peers got out, they were suicidal. Many of us followed through with it. I survived, to teach people how to reach teens in a way that helps, not hurts.
On this blog, I’m going to do just that: teach readers how to help teens using empathy and respect.
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