Risky Behavior in Teens: What Parents Should Know

Risky Behavior in Teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

Have you ever woken up late at night to discover your teenager missing? Have you ever found yourself digging through your teens’ web of lies? Has your teenager run away for several days at a time? You are not alone if you have experienced any of these things, or maybe just something similar. Unfortunately, risky behavior in teens is not uncommon. You might have even done something similar in your younger years. Now though, as a parent, you recognize the stress and anguish that comes with not knowing that your teenager is safe. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know what to do in these situations. This article will walk you through what to do about your teens’ risky behavior.

Table of Contents: 

Why Teens Engage in Risky Behavior

The teenage years can be challenging. They are often marked with the challenges of fitting in, making mistakes, and carving a new path for themselves. These years are all about identity development and testing one’s newfound freedoms. One of the ways that this manifests is that teens often crave new experiences and can be thrill-seekers. As a result, most teens find themselves making hard choices when it comes to risky behavior. Results of an international study of teens from 11 countries found that adolescent risk-taking increased to a peak at about age 19. After 19, risk-taking behaviors gradually decreased through people’s mid-late 20s. The good news is that risk-taking is a “phase” for most teens. Let’s explore the reasons why this is the case.

Play Video about Teens' brains prone to risky behavior study shows as reported by CBS News | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

Developmental Stage

​​Have you ever asked your teenager what you were thinking? Well, there is an explanation,at least for some of their bad decisions. Researchers found that parts of the teenage brain that drive impulse control and planning don’t fully develop until around 25.

The difference in brain development can sometimes be to blame for teens making quick decisions. Often without considering the consequences. Impulse control and planning issues can explain teens’ affinity towards risky behaviors. When talking about risky decision making and teens it is also important to bring up how peer pressure influences teens.

The Impact of Peer Pressure

If you think back to high school, what group were you in? It seems like every school (and 90s rom-com) had the classic social groups. You know, the jocks, hippies, stoners, nerds, etc. Social groups mean a lot to teens and help them figure out how they fit into the world. This is all a part of healthy development but can be problematic when peers influence risky behaviors. This can be especially true when high risk behavior is glorified on social media platforms and popular shows.

When teens engage in risky behavior, they might even get attention and positive feedback from their friends. Research has shown that the presence of peers can increase people’s willingness to engage in risky behaviors. Furthermore, it showed that this was especially true among boys, which is not too surprising. Teens desperately want to be accepted by their peers. As a result, they can feel pressure to make risky decisions based on that acceptance, even short-lived. While this seems like common sense, scientific research backs it up.

Play Video about Adolescent Risk-taking: The Power of Peer Pressure | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy Program for Teens

What is the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Risk-Taking?

It is normal for teens to take some risks, hence why car insurance is so expensive for a teen. They will often test any boundary that is set before them. One-time risks like skipping class to hang out with their friends. Or cheating on a test can be harmful but are not all that concerning in the grand scheme of things.

When your teen is engaging in risks that endanger themselves or others, damage relationships or threaten future opportunities, the consequences get more serious.

Dangers of Risky Behavior

Teens will often engage in risky behavior while having only a vague idea of consequences. Often, they may not understand the gravity of the situation. Like how sneaking into their parent’s liquor cabinet with their friends can lead to an emergency room visit. Teens engage in risky behaviors and often risk their physical and mental health. In addition, risky behaviors can be a slippery slope. They can snowball into other issues, like drug experimentation leading to an addiction.

Examples of Dangerous Risky Behavior in Teenagers

What are you thinking about when you tell your kids to be safe and make good decisions? Let’s get into the details about some of the risk-taking behavior that may have come to mind.

  • Impulsivity
  • Substance Abuse and Addiction
  • Alcohol and Drug
  • Experimentation
  • Reckless Driving
  • Vaping or Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Sexting
  • Violence
  • Dating Violence
  • Self-harm
  • Social Media
  • Cyberbullying
  • Preventable Injury
  • Running Away
  • Illegal Activities
  • Risky Sexual Behaviors
  • Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors
  • Technology Addiction or Process Addiction

Teenagers can quickly get in over their heads with any of the risky behaviors above. Let’s go into more detail to learn more about each of these categories.


Teens are known for their impulsive natures. The areas of the brain that control impulsivity and decision-making do not fully develop until someone is around 25. For example, teenagers who are criminals are less likely than adults to be repeat offenders. As teens age, they are able to control their impulses better. Research has also identified that teens are more likely to be influenced by their social surroundings than children or adults. Therefore they are more likely to participate in risky behavior if it helps them fit in.

Play Video about Dr. Dan Siegel Explains how both Hyper-rational and impulsive behaviors can be risky behaviors | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy Program for Teens

Substance Abuse and Addiction

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse research, teenagers and people with mental health disorders are more at risk for drug use and addiction than other populations. Substance abuse and addiction are serious mental health issues. They should not be taken lightly. Teens are susceptible to developing a substance abuse disorder. They are susceptible because of peer pressure, access, and resistance to treatment. If your child is showing signs of substance abuse disorder, it is time to consider professional help.

Alcohol and Drug Experimentation

It is not surprising that drugs and alcohol use decreases the functioning of the prefrontal cortex and increases impulsivity. Teens are already immature in their development in this area of the brain. Drugs and alcohol can cause a teen to be even more susceptible to impulse control issues. Usually, this results in more poor decision-making and reckless behavior.

Reckless Driving

There is a reason why it costs more to insure teen drivers, especially teenage boys. The statistics don’t lie, and teenagers are not only new drivers but also are more likely to drive recklessly. A study found risk-taking behaviors while driving increased in the presence of peers. In contrast, the risk-taking behaviors of adults did not change. Along with the difference, while driving with peers, distracted driving has become a problem. The data shows that 41.5 % of teens text and or email while driving.

Vaping or Smoking

Smoking cigarettes have been seen as “cool” in the past. But now, we are witnessing another popular way to get a nicotine fix, vaping. It has become so popular that tobacco product use has gone up 38 percent among high school students and 29 percent among middle school students between 2017 and 2018. Research is now finding that vaping can harm the body by depositing harmful chemicals and metals in the lungs like formaldehyde, nickel, and lead. In addition, nicotine in any form is highly addictive. It is a risky behavior with long-term negative consequences for teens.


When at-risk youth drink alcohol, they are even more likely to engage in risky behaviors than usual. According to the CDC, there were approximately 119,000 emergency room visits by people between 12 to 21 for injuries and conditions related to alcohol consumption in 2013. When teens combine risk taking behaviors with alcohol use it puts adolescents at a higher risk for other negative health consequences related to binge drinking, such as alcohol poisoning.

Additionally, teenage alcohol consumption is one of the risk factors linked to mental illness, like depression during the teenage years and beyond. A 2016 study found that two-thirds of those who developed alcohol or substance use disorders had experienced at least one mental health disorder.


Technology has made sending sexually explicit images easier. It is no surprise then that teens have caught on to the trend, but it might be even more common than you think.

  • 1 in 4 teens report receiving sexually explicit texts and emails
  • 1 in 7 report sending sexts
  • 1 in 10 teens report forwarding these sexts without consent
  • 1 in 12 teens report having had texts they sent shared without their permission

One study found that the average age of sexting teens was 15. Sexting is risky behavior that can lead to negative consequences for teens. Youth are being peer pressured into sexting, resulting in significant legal repercussions.

Unfortunately, teens are also getting bullied and having their bodies shamed. As a result, these teens are subjecting themselves to stressful situations that they have poor coping skills for.


Emotions run high during middle and high school. Bullying, fighting, and even gang violence are something that a young person could get involved with. Unfortunately, these behaviors are often glorified in movies, TV shows, and video games. As a result, teens can become desensitized to the severity of violence.

Dating Violence

Dating violence is not just limited to adults. A CDC study revealed that 26% of women and 15% of men were victims of sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking. In the study, they were victimized by an intimate partner and first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18. Therefore, it is important to talk to your teens about dating violence so that they are aware of what is and that it is not okay.


Teen who self-harm are often doing so to cope with emotional pain or other strong emotions. By doing this behavior, they feel a temporary release. Afterward, they often feel shame and guilt. It is common for someone who is self-harming to try to hide their wounds. Self-harming behavior is a sign of poor coping and communication skills. It is a sign that your child is going through an internal struggle and doesn’t have the tools to cope independently. Proper therapeutic intervention can help identify underlying reasons for the behavior and help your child overcome their struggles.

Social Media

On the one hand, social media is a great tool to connect and stay connected with loved ones and friends. On the other hand, social media has become a place where teens can be exposed to online predators, explicit content, and an environment that equates self-worth with likes, views, or followers.

Facebook is no longer the leading platform for teens. Instead, around half (52%) of teens said they used Instagram. According to research by the Pew Research Center, 41% of teens ages 13 to 17 were using the Snapchat app in 2018. It is expected that the popularity has only grown since then. However, there are several concerns that parents should be aware of when it comes to Snapchat.

Sexting is one of the reasons that Snapchat gained in popularity with the feature that deletes the photo after a set amount of time. Cyberbullying and sexual harassment can be a common occurrence on Snapchat as well. A feature called SnapMap can show other users your child’s location.

Further, Snapchat is commonly used for marketing and selling drugs, particularly to the teenage demographic. The real worry with Snapchat is that a lot of the problematic content is flying under the radar. Parental controls like bark or kidlogger can help parents monitor their teen’s social media use, including Snapchat.


Bullying has a whole new stage! Can you imagine having social media, text, or other platforms when you were a teenager? There is a disconnect between the words being typed and their effects. Talk to your kids about this kind of treatment and encourage them to tell you about any instance before things escalate.

Preventable Injury

Young people can be poor at assessing risky situations. As a result, peers often influence them to take some things to the next level. For example, doing a risky skateboarding trick or not wearing a helmet because it doesn’t look cool. In fact, according to a study, most teen injuries come from a lack of preventative measures.

Running Away

When a young person runs away or is missing, it puts an enormous strain on their family. Therefore, teens that run away should always be reported to the authorities, and all efforts should be put forth to return them home or to a safe place.

Illegal Activities

Teens can get themselves in more trouble than they realize when caught doing illegal activities like trespassing, vandalism, or drug possession. Often these types of offenses are done due to peer pressure, poor education, and drug abuse. If your child is participating in these types of behaviors it could be an indication that they are having issues with their mental health.

Risky or Unsafe Sexual Behavior

Teenagers who participate in risky sexual behavior like unprotected sex or having multiple sex partners are putting themselves at risk. According to the CDC, half of all new STDs reported each year are among young people 15 to 24. Unfortunately, many teens are not getting the proper education about these topics. Don’t leave this type of education up to schools. It should be a priority for parents whose teens are in middle and high school to educate teens about the consequences they face when engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Unhealthy Dietary Behavior

In the United States, as many as 1 in 10 young women suffer from an eating disorder. And 25% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder are men. Therefore, it is crucial to look for the signs of risky dietary behaviors and disordered eating. Seek treatment for your teen if this high-risk behavior is suspected.

Technology Addiction or Process Addiction

Teens are particularly susceptible to technology addiction, also known as a process addiction. On a deeper level, smartphone and other technology overuse are tied to two serious mental health issues: anxiety and depression. Anxiety disorders affect teens even more than adults. These disorders affect 25.1% of teens between 13 and 18 while affecting 19% of adults. Therefore, it is important to set limits on technology use. Parents should also be watching for signs and symptoms of other mental health disorders so they can be addressed early.

Play Video about Is Technology Addiction As Dangerous As Drug & Alcohol Addiction For Teens? A Youtube video about risky behaviors in teens by SheKnows | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy for Teens

Long-Term Effects of Teenage Risky Behavior

“There is a fairly consistent pattern that engaging in risky behaviors as a teenager is associated with less successful adult outcomes. In most cases, the earlier one engages in the behavior, the more likely one faces a bad outcome as an adult.”

When teens make risky decisions, it not only hurts their future, it is stressful for the entire family. It is typical for families with teenagers to go through ups and downs. It is also normal for teens to be moody and to struggle with communication. Often, teenagers do not understand how their risk-taking behaviors affect others. Their behavior can result in; family conflict, strain on a marriage, compromise safety, legal and financial issues.

It is important through difficult times to remember that “family has a very significant role in protecting students against risky behaviors”. It is hard to see that when teens put their family through the stress that accompanies their risky behavior but is important during the healing process.

Play Video about How risk-taking changes a teenager's brain a TED talk by Kashfia Rahman | Aspiro Wilderness Therapy for Teens

What Parents Can Do

Many parents of teenagers struggle when their teen participates in risky behavior. It is hard to know what to do, and each situation is different. To keep in mind amongst all of the confusion, your teenager knows that you love and care about them. You want to give them the independence they need, but you also want them to be safe. It all starts with communicating with your child.

Keep Talking and Stay Connected

Communicating with your teen can be challenging. Teens are notorious for having difficulty expressing themselves and feeling like people (especially parents) don’t understand them. That said, it is important to make efforts to “get on their level.” Find out what they are interested in and why. Play a video game with them every once in a while, if that is their thing or hop on a skateboard.

The main thing is to be open and honest with your child so that you can build a trusting foundation and then get involved with their life.

  • Have regular, casual conversations with your child centered around them and what they are doing right.
  • Get to know their friends
  • Set aside some quality time with your teen

Once you have a solid foundation with your child, open up conversations about risky behavior. Ask them what they already know and if they have any questions. When teachable moments come up, take advantage of them. Most importantly, equip your teen with information. Make sure that your teen knows how to make healthy choices and how to rebound from bad decisions. There will be many teachable moments that can be valuable for your teenager as they forge through this challenging time in their lives.

Set Clear Rules, Boundaries, Expectations, and Consequences

We all need structure in our lives in some way or another, even beyond school or work. Having clear rules, expectations and consequences can help add structure for teenagers. Along with that note, teenagers need boundaries as well. Therefore, it is important to teach and role model appropriate boundaries for teens to understand how to respect them in future relationships.

Setting Expectations

Expectations of your teenager should be clear and known by everyone in the family. If you have a blended family, the rules should be consistent for both households. The expectations should also be attainable. Teens are under a lot of pressure today. Make sure you are setting your child up for success. They often need help budgeting their time, and having reasonable expectations can help them do that.

Don't Move The Goal Post

When parents add chores or other things to a teen’s to-do list, it can add tension in the home. Things can not be 100% predictable, but it is best to do so if there is a way to avoid it. With teens struggling to manage their time already, adding unexpected tasks to their plate can lead to more frustration.

Agree Upon Clear Boundaries and Rules

Again, teens do well when there is structure, and boundaries and rules help create that structure. But make your rules and boundaries more about the relationship and not focused on punishing your child. When your teen crosses a boundary, it can be a coaching opportunity. Just know that pushing boundaries is normal for a teen.

Rules should be clear and consistent for teens. Be proactive and in collaboration with your teen establish rules in advance.  Working together to establish the rules is helpful so they feel they have a say in them. If you can get your teen to agree to rules in advance verbally they are more likely to accept responsibility if they break them in the future.

Make sure that rules are communicated clearly and are not assumed. This will help you avoid situations where you’re making them up on the spot or changing them at the moment.  If appropriate, you can create a written “contract” with your teen so that you are both clear on what to expect from each other.

Setting healthy boundaries shouldn’t be a one-time activity. You won’t get everything right the first time, and rules should change as your teen gets older or the situation changes. Set a regular time to meet with your teen and review and update your agreed-upon rules.

1. Have Empathy for Your Teen

It is not easy being a teen these days (and not easy to be a parent). Often teens are desperate for your approval. Teens are going to push boundaries, break the rules, and be frustrating. Having empathy for them can help strengthen your relationship with them and validate their feelings.

2. Earn Respect by Showing Respect

This means keeping your word. Have the same expectations for yourself as you do for your teen. Maintain your integrity. There is no faster way to ruin your relationship with your teen than to act hypocritically.

3. Avoid Power Struggles

Certain situations are bound to end up as a “me vs. you” power struggle. These are sometimes known as ‘zero-sum’ scenarios. Of course, no one wants to get into a power struggle. A great way to avoid power struggles is to listen to your teen and make sure that they feel heard. While you might still disagree, it keeps the temperature of the disagreement in check. It also helps to stay calm and model emotional regulation. So take some deep breaths and carry on.

4. Respect Your Teen's Privacy

Certain situations are bound to end up as a “me vs. you” power struggle. These are sometimes known as ‘zero-sum’ scenarios. Of course, no one wants to get into a power struggle. A great way to avoid power struggles is to listen to your teen and make sure that they feel heard. While you might still disagree, it keeps the temperature of the disagreement in check. It also helps to stay calm and model emotional regulation. So take some deep breaths and carry on.

5. Be Firm, Fair, and Consistent

It is hard not to give in sometimes when it comes to parenting. But teens need to know what to expect from you. Teenagers often feel like things are not fair. But using your best judgment and trying to see from their perspective can help you understand what is fair. For example, it is not fair to brush off your teen sneaking out one time only to explode on them for sneaking out another time. Being predictable makes risk calculations easier for teens because they know what to expect from you.

Agree Upon Clear Consequences

It is always a good idea to define consequences in detail ahead of time so that your teen knows what to expect when rules are broken. For example, being grounded means no social events, excluding school and sports for one week. Sticking to the rules of consequences will help strengthen your relationship with your teenager and make it easier for you to use them when necessary.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when consequences are necessary.

The three rules of consequences -
  1. The consequence should be proportional and should not be excessive or stacked
  2. Consequences should be directed at the behavior and not at the person
  3. Consistency. Consequences should not be a surprise for your teen.

Be a Role Model

Taking responsibility is an essential part of growing up, and this is an excellent way to model acceptable behavior. Teens look to their parents for guidance. Role modeling the kind of behavior that you expect from your teen is essential. So do the things that you say your child should do. It is also important to communicate values or guiding principles. Teens are forming their identity, and for a parent to talk about their values, it is helpful for teens to get a sense of theirs. By watching you and the world around them, they can develop values that can lead them to make good decisions. Avoiding risky behavior is easier for your teen if they know that the behavior goes against their values.

When You Feel That You Have Tried Everything

Sometimes you try your best, and things just don’t work out. There are many things that are out of your control and your teen’s risky behavior may be an indicator of an underlying mental or emotional struggle.

If your teen is routinely risking their safety, disrupting home life, emotionally or physically hurting themselves or others, then it is time to seek professional help.

Treatment Strategies for Teens Who Engage in Risky Behavior

There are many options for treatment that can help you and your family get back on a healthy track. Many options can address the underlying issues that are influencing your child’s behavior.

Treatment Options for Struggling Teens:

  • Outpatient Therapy with a Mental Health Counselor – a licensed therapist, can provide help for your teen. They can identify any underlying issues that are maybe causing your child to gravitate towards risky behaviors.
  • Psychologist – Can provide testing to determine if your child is struggling with any underlying mental health conditions like ADHD, depression, or anxiety.
  • Psychiatrist – Can prescribe medication to treat any underlying mental health issues.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) – This consists of frequent mental health appointments while living at home. The structure of outpatient therapies varies widely in terms of the number of appointments and program duration.
  • Residential treatment – mental health treatment facilities where the patients will live and engage in various therapies. Residential programs are, by definition, inpatient programs. Yet, these programs take place outside of a hospital setting in a designated facility. Therapies include traditional talk therapy, group therapy, and living in a structured environment. The combination can help limit impulsive behaviors.
  • Wilderness Therapy – Wilderness therapy is a mental health treatment strategy for adolescents and young adults with maladaptive behaviors that could include engaging in risky behaviors. Wilderness programs combine therapy with challenging experiences in an outdoor wilderness environment. This allows clients to disconnect from distractions and focus on themselves. Clients learn skills to engage in healthy behaviors while reconnecting with their families through family therapy. These programs are often individualized and provide an accurate assessment of underlying mental health concerns. You will have the peace of mind that you know exactly what is going on with your teen. This may even shine a light on problem areas that were not clear before, like anxiety or depression that can lead to better outcomes.

What Treatment Option is Best for Helping Teens With Risky Behaviors?

Choosing a treatment option for your teenager is a problem that no parent wants to face. It’s not an easy choice to make, and it is hard to predict your child’s reaction. But, here are some ways to help with this challenging decision.

Do They Use Evidence-Based Practices?

You want to make sure that your teen is going to or seeing practitioners that use evidence-based practices. You want the best and most effective treatment for your child and ensure that the methods used are tested.

Are They Licensed and Accredited?

When looking at practitioners and programs, you want to ensure that they are licensed. Mental health providers or therapists need to have a master’s degree in the field, complete a postgraduate internship, and pass a state licensure exam. Therapists can also have specialties that require more training. Licenses must be maintained by completing continuing education credits.

Additionally, some programs go through a voluntary credentialing process. For example, Aspiro Adventure Therapy is accredited by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH) and the Association of Experiential Education (AEE). They provide credentialing for outdoor behavioral healthcare providers and experiential education programs respectively. These organizations retain professionals in the field to inspect each program and certify that they are following all necessary guidelines for a safe and effective program.

Do They Include the Family & Provide Family Therapy?

Long-term results start with changing the family system. Family therapy is a key component of effective programming. Each family member learns how their behavior affects family relationships. When programs provide support for the whole family, they can learn how to best support each other.
Choosing the right path for your son or daughter is a huge responsibility. However, you will be on the right track towards a solution if you ensure that the programs are licensed, provide family therapy, and are evidence-based.

How Aspiro Can Help Your Family

Play Video about An Aspiro Student Talks about how Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy helped him overcome his risky behaviors

Wilderness Adventure therapy programs like Aspiro Adventure can be an effective treatment option for teens engaging in risky behaviors. For one thing, wilderness adventure therapy removes teens from their environments and allows them to focus on improving themselves. Wilderness adventure therapy also provides the space and time for teens to process their feelings in a healthy way and under mental health professionals’ supervision.

Programs like Aspiro Adventure use a dynamic approach that is evidence-based and licensed. Aspiro provides accurate mental health assessments, so you can be assured that your child gets the help they need. Wilderness adventure therapy’s unique environment provides customized treatment plans implemented by professionals. In addition, these therapeutic methods create an environment of growth and learning that will help get your teenager back on track.

Exposing teens to novel environments and adventure therapy activities is an effective way to challenge teens. In this setting, teens have the chance to learn and practice new coping strategies.

Further, overcoming seemingly impossible challenges, like summiting a large mountain, has been shown to improve resilience, grit, and self-efficacy. These are all critical elements to healthy teen development. They can help them form a healthy identity independent from negative peer influences.

Aspiro has a team devoted to strengthening your family system. They do this by providing family therapy. In addition to family therapy, the program includes a family seminar, parent coaching, and a parent support group. Long-term results are achieved by including the whole family in the process.

Wilderness adventure therapy is a smart option for a teen engaging in risky behaviors. If your family and teenager are struggling due to your teen’s risky behavior it is time to give Aspiro a call today to learn more.

Cody's Story

Cody was your typical teenager. He and his family lived in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a lovely community south of Denver. Cody had a wonderful family, and was generally a happy kid. He played lacrosse and had tons of great friends.

During Cody’s sophomore year of high school, his parents started to notice some changes. At first, it was little things, like disrespecting a teacher. But, as time went on, Cody’s family began to worry. He became hard to be around, argumentative and was rude. He struggled with being impulsive and not thinking through situations like when he vandalized a school bathroom with one of his friends. Then things started to escalate when he was arrested for having a vape pen and marijuana. The judge went easy on him and gave him a $300 fine, and he had to complete a drug education class.

It was clear to his family that Cody was unraveling. Cody’s parents knew that they needed to do something. Their son was unhappy and now going down the wrong path. So they went to Cody’s school counselor for advice. He suggested having Cody see a therapist. Unfortunately, Cody was like many teenagers and thought that he didn’t need help. He refused to go after a few sessions.

Over time, Cody’s parents tried many different approaches, but nothing was working, and Cody kept slipping farther away from them. It was at this time that they considered Aspiro Wilderness Therapy as a treatment option for Cody. Aspiro is an outdoor mental health treatment center based on adventure therapy. The idea of sending Cody away was awful for his parents. They felt like they failed him. Finally, after thinking it over for a long time, they made the difficult decision to take another parent’s advice and send Cody to Aspiro.

At first, when Cody got to Aspiro, he tried to convince everyone that he did not belong there. During those weeks, he sent his parents letters asking for them to let him come back home. However, after a few weeks, the tone of his letters started to change.

His therapist Chris was incredible. He understood Cody and his parents. He had an even demeanor, was empathetic, and kind-hearted. This, coupled with his no-nonsense straightforward “cut to the chase” way of operating, was exactly what Cody’s family needed. His parents learned many new things about parenting in their therapy sessions with Chris and the parent webinars. They learned how they could best support Cody.

Going to Aspiro was like a “reset” for the whole family. They came out of the experience understanding more about each other.

After Aspiro, Cody’s parents feel like they have their son back. He is happier, making better decisions, and is pleasant to be around. He is now on track to go to Colorado State University, and his parents could not be more proud of him.

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About the Author

Navigating a 5150 Hold for Minors: A Guide for Parents

Navigating a 5150 Hold For Minors: A Guide for Parents

When your child is struggling, your whole world can get turned upside down in an instant. This is especially true when your child is struggling with their mental health or has a mental illness. If your child’s needs become critical, the situation can seem out of control, and as parents, it can feel as though you are helpless. You can find yourself in a situation where you fear for your child’s safety and know that you need some kind of crisis intervention.

Seeking help can come in many forms but sometimes includes a hospital visit, contact with a mental health professional, or law enforcement. Depending upon how these interactions go, your child may be deemed a threat to themselves or others. They could be placed on a 72-hour hold, commonly referred to as a 5150 or 5585 hold, for their safety. The need for an involuntary commitment can be terrifying for any parent and child. It is important for you to recognize that this involuntary hold is intended to ensure the safety of your child and to give professionals time to assess your child’s needs during this psychiatric emergency.

Generally, a 5150 or a similar involuntary mental health hold is just one step in a longer process. It is often after a 5150 hold that parents consider more intensive treatment options, including wilderness adventure therapy. Here is a guide for parents if you find yourself in this situation.

What is a 5150 Hold?

A 5150 hold is a common term used to describe a 72 hour hold or involuntary commitment. This type of involuntary hold is implemented by a professional concerned that your child may be a threat to themselves or others. While the names of this type of involuntary hold may vary, the intent is to provide crisis intervention to ensure your child’s safety. An additional benefit of the involuntary commitment is that it gives time for mental health professionals to assess your child’s needs so that you know what to do next.

Having your child placed on a psychiatric hold is difficult for any parent. That said, involuntary treatment is an opportunity to get professional insight into how to best help your child. Listening to mental health professionals now could be the thing that saves your child’s life.

Every state has their version of a 5150 hold. Most are 72 hours long, though this can vary. The time that your teen or young adult is being held depends on the state you live in, your health insurance plan, or your child’s symptoms. During this time, it is essential to reflect on the fact that your child is safe. Also, it is time to pay close attention to your child’s needs.

A 5150 hold is an indication that your child needs professional care. Know that you are not alone. While grounds for a 5150 hold vary case to case, some of the most common reasons for teenagers include suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt. In fact, “suicide rates almost doubled in youth aged 17 years and younger during the past 10 years and… more than tripled in girls aged 10 to 14.”

While a 5150 hold is a serious situation for your family, it can be an opportunity for positive change. While the professionals do their work to assess your child, there are some steps that you can take to support your family unit during this difficult time.

What Your Child is Experiencing and How They Might Be Feeling

Know that your child is safe. This is the most important thing right now. Also, it is important to recognize that your child is likely not thinking clearly. They are probably having a hard time seeing the big picture and often don’t understand how to help themselves.

Your child is most likely feeling isolated and may not see how others could help them through their struggles. They may take their emotions out on you or other loved ones. This is normal and not something to be alarmed by. Your child may not understand why they are being forced into involuntary hospitalization. Chances are they are not being completely rational and could be hyper-focused on getting out of their current situation.

Unfortunately, this means that your child may not be comfortable fully disclosing details of their emotional state. They may instead try and “say the right thing,” to get themselves out of the hospital. It is still important to acknowledge what your child is feeling and support them as best you can.

3 Ways to Support Your Child While They are in the Hospital

Here are some strategies on how to best support your child during a 5150 hold:

1. Actively listen to your child.  Active listening is a technique where you acknowledge what your child is saying to ensure mutual understanding before including your opinions. For example:

Child: I hate it here and just want to go home.

Parent: I am hearing that you are not liking the situation that you are in and that you want me to sign you out. Let me check in with your therapist, I want to see what they think is in your best interest before making any decisions.

2. Validate their feelings. Let your child know that it is okay to feel sad or embarrassed about what happened. Maintain a hopeful and forward-looking tone. This does not mean you need to counteract negativity with positives. That might frustrate your child. Instead, try and keep the tone of the conversations hopeful and oriented towards a better future. Advocate for your child’s needs during this time. If you feel that they are at risk for another psychiatric emergency, and it is not safe for them to come home, consider other treatment options available.

3. Practice Self-care. It is essential during this turbulent time that you take care of yourself. You can not burn the candle at both ends and be able to give your full self to your family. It is essential to do whatever it is that you need to recharge. Whether it is taking walks around the neighborhood or going to a weekly yoga class. Give yourself permission to take care of your own needs, in addition to your child’s.

Actions to Take While Your Child is on a 5150 Hold

Ask for documentation regarding changes in your child’s medication. While your child is on the 72-hour hold, a psychiatrist will call you to prescribe a new medication or to request the discontinuation of a medication.

While this seems like common sense, it is not as widely known that psychiatrists may increase or decrease the dose of already prescribed medications without notifying you. As such, it is important to ask for documentation of all changes to your child’s medications so that your child can get the best psychiatric care.

Additional Documents to Ask for Regarding Medical Care Include:

  • Lists of any known side effects of new medications.
  • Copies of any psychiatric evaluation that may have been done while they were in the hospital. This evaluation is conducted by a mental health professional. It can inform you if your child is suffering from a mental disorder. It can be useful when trying to plan for what happens after your child is discharged.
  • A discharge summary which includes essential information from the assessment conducted while your child was on the involuntary psychiatric hold.

Post Discharge Planning and Preparing for Next Steps

As your child’s discharge approaches, it is essential to start considering further treatment options to begin planning the next steps for their care. The 5150 or other holds are intended to be temporary to stabilize and assess your child. It is necessary to continue treatment beyond the 5150 hold to ensure lasting change.

This is a critical time in your child’s life, and the decisions that you make now can have an immense impact on their future. Your child might not be in favor of getting further treatment. They might not understand the benefits and instead focus on the restrictions on their daily life. That said, resolving mental health issues while your child is still young, and while you have parental control, often shows positive long-term results. As a parent, you also have a variety of treatment options.

Main Types of Treatment:

  • Outpatient
  • Hospital Inpatient
  • Wilderness Therapy
  • Residential

Outpatient: This consists of regular mental health appointments while living at home. The structure of outpatient therapies varies widely in terms of the number of appointments and duration of the program.

Hospital Inpatient: Inpatient treatment at a psychiatric hospital usually lasts less than 30 days. Care occurs in a mental health facility that is a part of a hospital. This is considered the highest level of care and is generally reserved for the most acute cases where patients are experiencing a crisis and are a threat to themselves or others. Inpatient hospital programs can help a patient who is experiencing a psychiatric crisis and needs psychiatric evaluation and stabilization.

Residential Treatment: This is a mental health treatment facility where the patient will live and engage in various treatments. Residential programs are, by definition inpatient programs, but take place outside of a hospital setting in a designated facility.

Wilderness Therapy: Wilderness therapy is a mental health treatment strategy for adolescents and young adults with maladaptive behaviors. Wilderness programs combine therapy with challenging experiences in an outdoor wilderness environment to “kinetically engage clients on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels.” Many programs are designed for crisis intervention.

The Goal of Wilderness Therapy is to Provide:

  1. Therapeutic assessment
  2. Intervention and treatment of problem behaviors
  3. Safety & stabilization
  4. Lasting change

Some wilderness therapy programs incorporate adventure therapy into their model. For example, Aspiro, the pioneer of this strategy, uses adventure therapy to offer more opportunities for assessment, skill-building, and knowledge acquisition than traditional therapy programs. Additionally, these are opportunities to learn transferable skills that are necessary steps for healthy identity development. Finally, adventure therapy provides opportunities to experience success, leading to improved mental health, increased self-efficacy, and lasting change.

In conclusion, this is the time for you to advocate for your child’s mental health care needs. It is essential to follow your intuition after your child has been in an involuntary hold and do what you feel is best for your family and your child.

About Aspiro Adventure Therapy Program

Aspiro’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program was uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right.

At Aspiro Adventure, we focus on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through difficulties that occur when various emotional, behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.

About the Author

Wilderness Programs For At-Risk Youth

wilderness programs for at-risk youth - Aspiro Wilderness Therapy

This article will address factors that contribute to a youth being at-risk, common behaviors of at-risk youth, and the warning signs that your teen needs professional help. We will then take a look at how wilderness therapy addresses various problems at-risk youth face and how wilderness therapy can also help their families.

This article is written for at-risk youth, their parents or caregivers, counselors, and anyone seeking help for their youth exhibiting negative behaviors that will affect their long-term path to a successful adult life.

What is an At-Risk Youth?

It can be hard to imagine defining your child as being “at-risk.” As a parent or guardian, you have done your best. You have given your child love and support. You have tried to set a good example, and you want what is best for your child. It is often easy to ignore the signs that your child may need help.

At-risk youth definition: adolescents who are less likely to transition successfully into adulthood and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Experts say that youth today face more severe challenges than ever before, with school violence, deterioration of structure in families, substance abuse, electronic addiction, and pressure from the media. Teens who have trouble adapting and overcoming these stressors can turn to destructive or unhealthy behaviors. The result of unhealthy behaviors can be detrimental to their futures. These behaviors can derail a once aspiring young person and send them down a risky path.

It can be challenging for parents who have an at-risk youth in their home. There can be more conflict that interrupts the family routine. This conflict often causes a constant feeling of walking on eggshells. Parents do anything to avoid sparking another argument with their struggling teen. Parents often wait to address these issues until things progress to a boiling point. But parents don’t have to wait until the situation is out of control. With proper interventions and treatment, there is hope. Your home can once again become a happy place, filled with trust and healthy relationships. Credible treatment options like wilderness therapy incorporate several methods to help at-risk youth. You can find peace in your family by helping your child increase their self-efficacy and better understand themselves. These increases translate positively into their home life and give you peace of mind as a parent. It helps to know that you did everything that you could to keep your child safe and their future bright.

Common Behaviors of At-Risk Youth

If your child’s behavior takes a negative turn, it may be a sign that something bigger is going on.

Every teenager is different, but there are some delinquent behaviors that parents and educators can use as indicators. Frequent absences from school, leading to suspension or expulsion, history of abuse or trauma, and drug use are some examples of apparent signs. Other common behaviors are not as easy to identify, yet they are just as prevalent. It can be critical to identify that your child needs help. Underdeveloped reading skills, isolating behaviors, and lying to parents are some examples.

What is essential to recognize is that some at-risk youth internalize their emotions while others express their feelings externally. Those who internalize emotions often have negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and a distorted view of themselves. It can be challenging for parents to watch their child suffer in this way. It can seem that no matter how many positive things you say to them, they cannot be happy with themselves.

On the other hand, some troubled teens express their feelings externally. These children often have frequent outbursts of anger towards family members. They can become resistant to anything that a parent suggests. This resistance can leave the parent feeling helpless. Both internal and external expressions of dysregulated emotions are warning signs for parents. They could be an indication to seek professional help. 

20 Signs Your At-Risk Youth Needs Help

If your teen exhibits more than 4 of the following, they could be at risk for some of the outcomes previously discussed. These can be detrimental to at-risk teens and their long-term success and health.

Common External Behavior Problems of At-Risk Teens:

  • Experimenting with substances or having a substance abuse problem.
  • Being verbally abusive to those around him or her
  • Bad peer group association
  • A struggle with basic rules and expectations 
  • Disrupted school year: school suspension, expulsion, truancy or drop in grades
  • Problems with the law, sometimes requiring court intervention
  • A parent is ‘walking on eggshells’ when speaking with the youth to avoid conflict
  • Sexual promiscuity and/or risky sexual behaviors 
  • Manipulative or deceitful behavior
  • Stealing from family or others
  • Lying about their whereabouts or activities

Common Internal Struggles of At-Risk Teens:

  • Difficulty motivating the youth to do household chores and homework
  • Contemplating dropping out of high school
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Loss of interest in former hobbies, activities, or friendships
  • Depression or withdrawal from others
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Change in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Severe contempt for self or others
  • Struggle with a mental illness

Factors Contributing to a Youth At-Risk

Teens can find themselves in the at-risk youth category due to a variety of factors, including:

  • An underlying mental health diagnosis 
  • Family conflict or stress  
  • Community factors 

Examining the contributing factors to youth being at-risk can help to determine the best course of action for you as parents.

Personal Factors Contributing to an At-Risk Youth

Individual diagnoses can contribute to youth being at-risk. A teen diagnosed with depression may be more at risk for suicidal thoughts. Similarly, a teen diagnosed with a personality or mood disorder may be more at risk for verbal or physical outbursts. A recent trauma a teen may have experienced, such as the death of a loved one or a disruptive life event may also be a contributing factor. It is also essential to know that teens can find themselves at-risk regardless of their background. Sex, race, religion, education, economic status, gender identity, and sexual orientation do not exclude any teen from being at-risk.

Family Risk Factors Contributing to an At-Risk Youth

Teens can also be at-risk because of family risk factors outside of their control. These sometimes include divorce, financial hardships, family dysfunction, and parents who struggle with mental health conditions. These factors can put undue pressures on developing teens and can contribute to problematic behaviors

Community Risk Factors Contributing to an At-Risk Youth

Teens can be at-risk on a community level for many reasons. When they fall in with the wrong friend group, they experience bullying, exposed to pressures of social media, and succumb to peer pressure. Youth at-risk is becoming an increasing problem in the United States. It can be hard for parents to know when it is time to seek counseling and professional help for your at-risk teen. Treatment programs vary in their measurement of what precisely an at-risk youth is. If your teen exhibits the above behaviors, they could be at risk for some of the outcomes previously discussed. These can be detrimental to their long-term health and success. The positive results of youth empowerment programs are improved social skills, improved behavior, increased academic achievement, increased self-esteem, and increased self-efficacy.

Help for Families With At-Risk Youth

It can be challenging for parents who have an at-risk youth in their home. There is almost always an increase in conflict. This conflict interrupts the family routine and harmony. It can be uncomfortable for parents when they try to avoid sparking an argument with their struggling teen.

Living in such an environment is not sustainable, nor is it healthy for anyone involved. This problem should be addressed sooner rather than later. With proper intervention and treatment, there is hope. Your home can once again become a happy place. It can be filled with trust and healthy relationships. Credible treatment options, such as wilderness therapy, incorporate several methods to help your at-risk youth strengthen their self-efficacy and understanding of themselves. These results translate positively into their home life and also to your peace of mind.

Wilderness Programs For Troubled Youth

Wilderness therapy addresses many of the behavioral outcomes present in at-risk youth. Furthermore, wilderness therapy is effective at getting to the root cause of problem behaviors, rather than just treating symptoms. Wilderness therapy can increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and problem-solving skills. Students in wilderness therapy programs often report decreased levels of depression and anxiety.

Wilderness Therapy Promotes Self-Efficacy and Builds Confidence in At-Risk Youth

Building Self-Efficacy: Some credible wilderness treatment programs incorporate high adventure activities and therapy in a wilderness setting. By including high adventure activities programs aim to create challenging scenarios ideal for youth development. In these scenarios, students have the opportunity to learn skills and overcome seemingly impossible challenges. While engaging in these various physical activities, the trained staff give students positive verbal encouragement and feedback, which also helps to increase their personal efficacy. 

This process has proven highly effective at building self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy, as defined by Bandura, is “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute a course of action required to attain designated types of performances” (Bandura, 1986, p. 391). Research has shown that changing one’s belief in oneself is necessary for changing behavior on a long-term basis. This is different than just building confidence. Self-efficacy is about knowing one’s ability to overcome challenges. This is based on past performance. It is more successful in focusing on the intrinsic motivation to change. Rather than just focusing on improving the behaviors themselves. 

High self-efficacy can contribute to a positive perception of one’s actions. This positivity increases motivation to persist through adversity. This increase in motivation is a positive change for a youth who is at risk. Changing someone’s perceptions of their efficacy is the most effective. It can transform at-risk youth into a thriving adolescent or young adult. 

Let’s take a moment to understand where personal efficacy is derived from:

  • Past performance
  • Perceptions of one’s ability or others with similar abilities
  • Verbal feedback
  • The person’s physical state while performing the task 

Wilderness therapy incorporates these four factors in programming and treatment models. These four factors create a unique environment that builds self-efficacy. At-risk youth start to believe in their ability to be successful. As this belief grows, the negative behaviors that were seen in the home environment begin to diminish.

Building Confidence: Confidence is a derivative measure rooted in self-efficacy. A credible wilderness program leverage the past performance factor mentioned above to work towards a stable confidence level in students. This increased confidence happens when someone proves to themselves that they can overcome obstacles. Research shows that this newfound confidence translates beyond the wilderness setting to emotional, behavioral, and academic success. They can take pride in who they are and what they can accomplish. Processing and debriefing are tools often used to help youth internalize the wilderness experience. Program facilitators lead discussions that allow students to acknowledge their progress. Students then relate these experiences to their own therapeutic goals.

Wilderness Therapy Provides a Novel and Therapeutic Environment for At-Risk Youth

A credible wilderness therapy program will provide unique opportunities for personal growth through mental health treatment. They do this while incorporating the healing effects of the outdoors. Being away from the distractions that are present in a typical adolescent and young adult life is an ideal environment, where they can realize their true potential. Research shows that merely spending time outside can improve both physical and mental health. Wilderness therapy is not just playing outdoors, nor is it a ‘boot camp.‘ Instead, therapists assess each student’s varying needs. With this information, they can direct each step in their care. Therapists create a unique treatment plan for each student. This treatment plan is implemented throughout the process. 

Credible wilderness therapy programs take a whole-person approach towards treatment. For example, at Aspiro, instead of focusing on a single problem like school failure, therapists strive to build a relationship with each client. They then can address the root causes of behaviors rather than just the symptoms.

A credible youth program will use a variety of methods to help at-risk teens have a successful future. Aspiro, for example, uses a 

  • Research-based and results-driven model
  • Individual and group therapy
  • High adventure therapy
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Relational approach 
  • Positive psychology modalities
  • Family systems therapy
  • In-depth assessment tools
  • Transitional support/ long-term recommendations

All of these methods have been shown to increase success for those people who were once at-risk youth. Overall, wilderness therapy programs increase the chances of long-term success for at-risk youth. 

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Wilderness Adventure Therapy Can Help Your Family Emerge Better Than Before

Wilderness therapy can help not only the young man or woman but also their families. Research shows that parent-adolescent conflict correlates with some at-risk behaviors. Therefore, the relationship between the parent and youth is an essential factor in preventing at-risk behaviors, along with sustaining healthy patterns once achieved. A family assessment and integrated family therapy are critical to the success of any credible wilderness camp.

Wilderness Therapy Addresses Family Dynamics and Patterns

Some wilderness therapy programs incorporate families into the treatment process. Working with parents and other family members can set the youth up to succeed better once they return home from treatment. Programs like Aspiro invite parents to multi-day family workshops. Families typically come after the teen has completed a significant portion of the program. This way, they can see the progress the youth has already made. Parents and teens find new ways to succeed in their relationships and as individuals during treatment. The parent workshop includes several sections. One of those sections teaches parents to limit conflict between themselves and their teens. Less friction leads to a more harmonious home. In addition to the family workshop, parents engage in family systems therapy weekly at Aspiro. Addressing the whole family system is seen as critical to the overall treatment plan for the at-risk youth.

Wilderness Therapy Leads To Healthier Families

When the parent-youth relationship deteriorates, at-risk behaviors often follow. As a way to achieve healthier patterns within the home, wilderness therapy works with the whole family system. Family units work with each other to overcome the toxicity that often exists in the house before treatment. All members of the family are guided through this process by a clinician. Once everyone can take a step back and get themselves to a healthier place there is less conflict within the parent-child relationship. As the relationship with a child’s parent improves, values become more aligned. Often this equates to fewer arguments and more communication, in addition to an improved quality of life. These changes can make all the difference.

A recent study found that youth returning from wilderness therapy programs reported significant improvements in their mood and behavior. These once struggling youth have higher levels of self-efficacy, improved confidence, and in turn, improved relationships with their families.


A teen can be at-risk for a variety of reasons. However, regardless of the cause or individual circumstance, it is always extremely heartbreaking and challenging for parents to have an at-risk teen in their family. As a result, many parents feel overwhelmed about how they can best help their teens. However, the road to recovery for your loved one begins with identifying your ‘at-risk’ teen, then seeking out the help they need. 

Credible wilderness therapy can provide you with peace of mind. Knowing your teen will be on a better path to health and long-term success. They achieve this by increasing at-risk youth’s self-efficacy and confidence. They can help him, or her, overcome the negative aspects of their life that have dragged them down. 

With proper support and care, your teen and your family can emerge happier and healthier than ever before.

About Aspiro Wilderness Therapy Program

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Aspiro Adventure’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program was uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right.

Aspiro Adventure focuses on helping adolescents, young adults, and their parents through difficulties that occur when various behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.

About the Author

19 Signs of a Troubled Teen

19 Signs of a Troubled Teen | Aspiro Wilderness Therapy Program

Teenage years and teenage problems can be rough for parents and teens alike. As teens make mistakes, learn, and develop the skills necessary to be an independent autonomous adult, it can seem like they are on an emotional roller coaster. Some behaviors that teens display are normal, such as mood swings, increased peer influence, and a changing appearance. There are always going to be typical, teenage problems and behaviors. As teens strive for more independence and explore their own opinions, arguments with family members and struggling for more freedom are not uncommon; however, there are some red flag signs your teen may be in trouble that every parent should be aware of.

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Aspiro Infographic: Help for Troubled Teens

Wilderness Therapy Programs For Troubled Teens | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Teenage years can be rough for parents and teens alike. Often times, it can seem like teens are on an emotional roller coaster, as this is a dynamic time in one’s life. Keep in mind that if your teen is displaying undesirable or deviant behavior, it could be the result of a more serious issue that needs to be addressed therapeutically. In order to promote a life-long change and ensure a smooth transition into adulthood, it is important to get help for troubled teens. Helping your son or daughter transition into a successful, happy, well-balanced adult means being there for him or her during the difficult teenaged years.

This new Aspiro infographic, Help for Troubled Teens, takes a look at some of the surprising statistics about the issues today’s teens face.

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Teen Intervention: Five Warning Signs Your Teen Needs Help

Wilderness Therapy Programs For Troubled Teens | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Parents often reassure themselves that their pre-adolescent or adolescent is doing fine as long as the child is not involved in dangerous behavior (alcohol use, drug use, sexual acting out) and is making good grades. In fact, the warning signs of impending trouble are actually closer to home than the more extreme behaviors just mentioned.

It is important for parents to focus on the relationship they have with their child rather than whether or not they are currently making poor choices. The parent/child relationship is the foundation for being able to navigate through the difficult adolescent years and the challenges they bring. A 12- or 13-year-old who already defies parental authority and treats parents with disrespect is setting the stage for becoming an uncontrollable 15- or 16-year-old and doing whatever pleases them.

It is normal for a pre-adolescent or adolescent child to push away from parents and want to assert their own authority. That is part of establishing their own identity and is developmentally appropriate. But where do parents draw the line between developmentally appropriate behavior and inappropriate acting out?

Here are five warning signs that indicate the need for a teen intervention:

  1. Has your child become increasingly disrespectful toward you to the point of screaming at you and calling you names?
  2. Does your child consistently disregard your rules and do as they please in the home or outside the home?
  3. Does your child believe he/she is the center of your family and demonstrate blatant disregard for the feelings of family members, their time or their possessions?
  4. Does your child escalate when they do not get their way to the point that you must give in just to be able to manage the situation safely?
  5. Do you suspect, after listening to friends and relatives talk about their children that your child’s emotional acting out in the home exceeds what other parents experience? Do your child’s friends or your friends comment to them or you about how poorly they treat you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to talk to a counselor about how to improve the relationship with your child. If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you may need a more intensive intervention than counseling. Your child currently may not be making poor choices that are obvious to you, but when they do, you will have difficulty intervening because your authority has already been undermined through their continual disrespect of you and disregard for your rules.

There is nothing more frightening than watching your child spin out of control and feeling hopeless to stop that process.

At Aspiro, our priority is restoring the parent/child relationship into one of mutual respect, yet with clear lines of parental authority. Once they are at Aspiro, your child can gain a new perspective on their behavior toward you through the stories of other students and the expectations of the staff. They will be able to learn how destructive their behavior was, not just in damaging the parent/child relationship but also in pushing themselves head-long into choices and decisions they are ill-equipped to make. Students gain a clear understanding of how the adults in their life, including parents, are there to support them, helping make decisions for and with them and they learn and grow.

If you are already experiencing many of the problems alluded to in the above questions, don’t wait for your child to start making poor choices before you act. You can change the course of your family’s future by acting now – before your child is spiraling out of control.