How to Parent a Teen Facing Jail Time

When you welcome your child into the world, the last thing you image is a day when your child is facing time in jail. It’s a heartbreaking realization to deal with, but if your teen finds himself in a situation that could mean going to jail, you might begin to question how you parent your teen. The bottom line is that when your teen is facing jail, he needs you more than ever, whether he deliberately chose to follow a path that brought him to this point or he made one bad decision that may end up costing him the ultimate punishment.

Make an appointment for your teen to see a therapist, both individually and with the rest of the family. According to Time magazine, teens who face jail time tend to learn more and reform their behavior in therapy than in the juvenile justice system. Your teen may not be able to avoid jail time for whatever crime it is that he committed, but therapy could help him accept responsibility and show remorse more so than his time in jail. Also according to Time, teens that go to jail are twice as likely to end up arrested again as adults.

Accept that your teen might go to jail, advises Dr. Adekemi Oguntala, MD, head of the Teen Clinic in South San Francisco. When you accept that your teen is possibly going to jail, you can help him come to terms with the same concept. Being in denial about your teen’s situation is not the way to parent your teen when he is facing time in jail. He needs your support and your unconditional love at a time like this.

Encourage your teen to look at his potential jail time as a learning experience, advises Dr. Oguntala. For example, say he was with a group of friends who decided to break into someone’s house and rob them and he stayed in the car the entire time because he didn’t want to participate. He is still an accessory to the crime, which is the reason he is facing jail time. Encouraging him to look at his potential punishment as a lesson can help him to learn that even when he makes good decisions, when he's with bad people, it can have a poor end result.


Grieve on your own, states Dr. Oguntala. Do not allow your teen to see you cry or grieve while he is facing jail. Be strong for him so that he learns to be strong for himself.