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Parents of Teens: This is Why You’re Frantic

Dear Parents of Teen: This is Why You're Frantic. Cyndy Etler. @cdetler Help for Teens

So you’re starting down the path of parenting, and it’s a nice, fresh-paved straight line. Lots of flowers, sunlight, bumblebees. Smiling parents push their high-zoot strollers along next to you.

Second grade, and the path goes curvy. You spot a couple clouds. You smile at the other parents, but they’re focused on their phones. The trees are taller, but at least they have those boards nailed into them, in case you want to climb.

Fifth grade, and it’s not a path anymore. It’s a twisty, rock-strewn trail. The only things flowering are rose bushes. And those other parents? They’ve taken up running. Not jogging, running. They go by so fast, you can’t see their faces. Thank God the trail-makers installed streetlights; it’s starting to get dark.

Middle school, now, and the trail is switchbacks and dead ends. You can’t see the hazards; all the streetlights have been slingshotted out. You feel them as you twist your ankle and bark your shin, stumbling off the trail-edge. Those parents left you behind years ago.

And bam, high school. You’re hobbling blind.

And bam, high school. 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. But you can’t tell where or who. So you’re desperate. You’re frantic. And you’re right. I’m sorry. You’re right.

This week I did a search for publications, big blogs, that cater to parents of teens. I’m an author, see, and a teen life coach. A veteran alternative school teacher. A former “troubled teen.” I’ve got knowledge to share; I’ve got real help for teens. So I want to pitch some articles. But where the hell are the magazines? Where are the blogs for parents of teens?

They pretty much don’t exist. The glossies deal with babies; 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 looking for help for teens—if you’re looking for help 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 shit-ton 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, a fact we’ll dig into in my next post. 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.

If you, or someone you know, could use this info, please scroll up and subscribe. Or follow me on social media. Or share this post. And if you know a teen, go give ‘em a hug. Trust me.

Want to read my memoirs about my experiences in Straight Inc? Go here.



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