Helping Teens With Destructive Behavior

By Tiffany Raiford

Destructive behavior can include anything from drinking and doing drugs to engaging in sexual behavior and smoking. If you suspect your teen is engaging in any of these destructive behaviors, you will want to help him overcome the problem. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. You may find yourself walking a very fine line between wanting to protect your teen and needing to do whatever it takes to stop his self-destruction.

Be Sensitive

Be sensitive to the stress in your teen’s life, advises Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. A 2009 study by the center shows that teens with too much stress and no way of coping are more than twice as likely as less-stressed teens to engage in destructive behavior. Help your teen by listening to her concerns, knowing what is stressing her out and helping her find a way to cope with her stress. For example, consider buying her a gym membership so she can relieve stress with exercise, or sign her up for group sports.

Communicate Frequently

Open the lines of communication with your teen, advises Students Against Destructive Decisions. If you communicate regularly and openly with your teen, he is less likely to engage in destructive behavior because he has a bigger desire to live up to your expectations. For example, if you make it a habit to talk over dinner every night or in the car on the way to school, particularly about things like sex and drugs, your teen will learn to be more open discussing those things with you. This may make him less likely to engage in these destructive behaviors.

Stay Engaged

Staying engaged in your teen’s life is a good way to help her with destructive behavior, Califano says. Know who her friends are -- and their parents, if possible. Go to her sporting events or performances, know where she is at all times and prevent her from becoming bored. Encourage her to sign up for extracurricular activities, get a job or volunteer. Invite her to spend more time with you and do fun things together to strengthen your bond.

Consider Professional Help

If you suspect your teen’s destructive behavior has become an addiction or needs more help than you can offer, consider professional help. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, therapy and even medications can help your teen overcome destructive addictions such as drugs, drinking and cutting, advises psychologist Mary Carole Curran. While you can help prevent your teen from engaging in self-destructive behavior during the early stages, it’s much more difficult to help an addict without professional help.

About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.