Advice for the Tough Times

Lately I’ve been getting more requests for advice geared towards teenagers.

This article is most applicable to teens, yet can be tailored to any age child.

What do you do when really tough challenges arise with your child? What if your son is hanging out with a shady group of friends or your daughter is regularly skipping school?

Very likely, you will become engrossed in fixing the problem at hand and seeking solutions to straighten out your child. Oftentimes, during these stressful periods, parents become so focused on the current issues that- paradoxically- they neglect their actual relationship with their son or daughter.

It is precisely during the tough times that your bond with your child needs to be cultivated with additional nourishment.

So, while you are dealing with the inevitable pains that are bundled with the joys of raising children, remember to take the time for the two of you to nurture your personal relationship.

Take your son to a sports game, without any of his siblings. Go on a shopping trip with your daughter, without trying to do your errands simultaneously. During these outings, do not mention the tough stuff at all. Concentrate on having a good time in each others company without referring to any problems.

Relax, and enjoy yourselves. Do something unusual, spontaneous, or plain funny. Humor can alleviate stress better than anything else in the world.

Obviously, you will be spending time addressing the difficulties in the current situation, oftentimes with the aid of a professional- just don’t do it while you are on one of your trips together! Additionally, please make sure that your child has a responsible adult with whom he/she can confide; a friend’s parent, a guidance counselor, relative, etc.

Have a wonderful time- and remember to laugh! There’s a silver cloud lining behind every cloud- even this one!


  1. Marion Bramblett says:

    Wow, you must be psychic! I was just asking myself what can I do for my 18 year old son to strengthen our bond and I opened my email this morning and you have given me a great idea. Thanks! Keep the emails coming!

  2. One thing that has helped us is to have a “night out” with each child every week. We have 5, so that means each child only gets to go out with us once every 5 weeks. LOL But, it’s a nice time to bond, do something fun.

    Steer clear of talking about anything controversial…even if your child brings it up. Just say that tonight is our night out, and we will talk about that another time.

    You would be amazed at how this can help maintain your relationship with your teen. It doesn’t have to be expensive (sometimes you may want to go to a nice restraunt) you can also go to a nice park with a pic-nic, and toss the football, or play tennis, or basketball.

    Just make it stress free for you and your teen. It’s a special time to be together.

    I am not a perfect parent, neither is my hubby. But we do the best we can. I just want to make sure that you know I am not a psychologist, just telling you what has worked for us. 😉


  3. Theresa says:

    I am reading Hold on to Your kids by Gordon Neufeld and this is exactly what he talks about in his book. He says behavioral problems are often a symptom of the breakdown of the relationship between parent and child and so reconnecting with your child can help solve those problems. Thanks for the reinforcement!

  4. I say dont wait until your children are teens for problems to develop! Treat them respectfully (yes, respectfully!) when they are young!

  5. My teen daughter went haywire at 11 and has been out on a limb for 3 1/2 years now. The struggle is constant. We have obtained professional council that has helped. However, we also learned that when the teen doesn’t want to be helped, she won’t be. I have never given up. Regardless of the situation, I let her know that she is stuck with my love, and I’m not going to desert or turn tail or let her go “away” into the world where she can live with the person of her choice because they are “Nicer and understand how awful I am for setting rules she does not choose to follow.”

    Actually, you are right on the money. I have taken her away for suprise day trips, mini vacations, lunch or dinners out, and gone for walks with her. We have agreed to allow each other to have some space to calm down when things get too hot. Otherwise, the fire and anger gets completely out of control. Over the last 3 years, the frequency of explosions has deminished, and our relationship has improved significantly. Sometimes, I had to go to drastic measures, which included removing her from public school for a semester and enrolling her in a charter home school program which took her away from the daily bad influnences, and gave her a chance to feel and respode on her own, rather than projecting someone elses (friend’s) rebelious behavior.

    So, hang in there. I have four more years to go with her before highschool is over and we move to the next stage. Be open and prepared, try not to respond too fast or get drawn into bad drama behavior. It is easy to get caught into the moment and behave as badly as she does in the parental effort to have the last word.

  6. Anne Taylor says:

    Hi! I really love much of what you say on this site. The one problem I was surprised to encounter in this article is the suggestion that they have another adult to confide in. I believe that is the root of many of our problems in this day and age. The parents need to be educated (just like you are doing on this website), and the relationship needs to good, open and positive. If it is not, the parents are the ones who need to work on it with the child ( with help to the parents). Relying on another adult or guidance counselor weakens the relationship and guidance with the child. Parents are guidance councelors, not paid professionals who do not love your child nearly as much as you do. We need to take our children back with the people they have been given to – the parents. Parent education – that is the way to go.

  7. I would like to address the issue of guidance counselor or another adult to confide in. In my experience with my tough teen, it does require the parents in counseling with the teen, the teen and counselor one on one, and parents one on one with the counselor. We were able to work through many problems and issues with this process. When the teen went alone, nothing worked. When she knew she had help along with us getting help so we could all learn how to communicate in a positive way, we had progress. I also have 2 adult female friends that my daughter goes to when she is scared or furious with me. They allow her to blow off steam, give her support, and encourage her to go back and talk to me. This has never failed us. She/we have a clear understanding that they will not keep anything from me that could or would put her in danger, and their guidance is more of a sounding block and encouragement to talk to her parents and not be afraid of the conquences.

  8. Really enjoyed this article — great food for thought. I really worry about my daughter (she’s just turned 14). She has a low self-esteem and shows many signs of depression. Depression and addictions run in the family (both sides).

    I have been trying to work on her self-esteem but it is really difficult to keep giving her positive messages and reassuring her of our love, etc., when the low self-esteem and depression cause her to be very negative, obstinate, and rude.

    I have been trying to give her lots of time with just the 2 of us, and not arguing or preaching at these times, as this article suggests, and it usually goes well, but the minute I say “no” to something she wants, we’re right back to the battling. I am finding for every positive thing I can find to say, her behaviour requires me to say 3 negative things!! It’s so frustrating!

    She is such a prime candidate for drugs, early sex, drinking, etc! It really worries me! She refuses to go for counselling.

    Any ideas, anyone?

  9. Bea,

    I have a 13yo like this. He is a good boy, but his moods are up and down so much during a day, that it’s hard to follow. I keep hoping he will grow out of it. LOL

    One thing that works for him, is for me (and hubby if possible) to spend one night a week out with him. Even if it’s just walking around the mall, or going to play miniature golf, a bike ride etc… This gives us a chance to talk (without me turning it into a lecture…which I have a tendency to do), and give me a chance to see how my child is doing without interruptions from my littles. This is a time to talk about anything they want. Let them confide in you.

    We all felt depressed as teenagers. I remember being a teenage girl, and having the WORST up and down moods (due to my body adjusting to the flood of girl hormones…LOL). Let her know what is normal, and what to watch out for. Most of all, love her, hug her, spend time with her, buy her a new pen, talk to her. (read the Five Love Languages to find out what her love language is). Many times this can make all the difference.

    Many times I would spend time just listening to my daughter. It really does help. Many times that is all they need to know you love them.

  10. Debbi, thanks for your thoughts on this. I really appreciate it! What are the Five Love Languages you refer to?

  11. My son was in the same boat as your daughter last year…we found a family run traditional overnight camp that he went to for two weeks last summer….he loved it and he was a diferent young man when he returned home….
    He went again this year and brought his 12 year old brother with him, he also loved it and was much happier with himself when he returned….I love my kids and they love me, but sometimes a healthy dose of letting go for a couple weeks and letting them immerse themselves in nature and doing things they love away from mom and dad can really open their eyes, so they appreciate what they have and also learn all the wonderful things they can do for themselves….
    good luck!

  12. I have teenagers at home, and I know EXACTLY what you guys are talking about. I also have 2 graduating from college this year. Even though I am soooo proud of them, I also miss them soooo much. I cried like a baby when they left and still do every time they turn the corner on their way back home. No matter how long they come for a visit, it’s never long enough. Many of the seemingly horrindous things that happened in the past (some I am just now finding out about) we can actually look back and laugh at now. As for your teenagers remember there is a season for everything and this too will pass. Try to enjoy them while you got them.

  13. mom of one says:

    i have tears… to the teen years{june} my son is my life, i am a single mom and this touched me, as i have had a heavy heart on the changes a teen goes thru-the bond is weakened or so it seems and it is sad-some say it will come back-“this is just a phase of independance” i hope to see that soon:> thanks for your awesome website offerrings!!!sincerely “me” mom of one

  14. I just left my first born for his first year in college. He hasn’t called me yet… I thought we were close… It’s tearing me apart. I am trying to be strong and I know I have to ‘let go’ but, I still want him to call me and let me be part of his life.

    This is so hard… pray for me!

  15. I know how hard it is. When my daughter left for College Station and couldn’t fit everything in her car, I immediately took off work and went with her. I remember that evening when I left her apartment; I sat at the security gate and cried like a baby. I knew once I went out that gate I couldn’t get back in. I drove to Houston that night, crying most of the way, and stayed at my sisters. The next day my sisters asked what my daughter needed. We went shopping, so of course, the next day I had to go back to College Station to take her a whole bunch of crap for her apartment. She will graduate this May, and I am so proud of her.

    Isn’t it ironic how they are doing just what we raised them to do, yet
    it is so difficult accepting how independent they are sometimes. My daughter and I usually talk more now than we did when we lived together.
    She calls every day (sometimes a lot more). Yesterday, she called and said, “Mom, I just wanted you to know I am standing in my very OWN
    apartment!!!!!!!!” She has had room mates for three years and this is a very big step for her. Sometimes I get busy and forget to call, and
    she’ll call and say, “Remember me?” And I do the same thing to her. I hate to tell you but my son doesn’t call near as often. I hope yours
    does because I know just how hard it is not hearing from them. Don’t worry though; they ALL call when they need money, which will be pretty
    God Bless you and your family,

  16. Well, I must be the parent from the pit, because I am so worn out from dealing with my 17 yr old, that all I want is graduation to hurry up and get here. When I read the post from the parent who said she has told her daughter she is stuck with her love and she will not desert her or send her away, I thought,”I knew it, I am the worst parent in the world”. I know he has low self estemm, and I agree with the other post that quoted from the book. I can see that in my relationship with my son. But I am totally worn out. He goes to a counselor but applies none of what is said.

  17. I am taking my oldest son tomorow to start University, a ferry ride and 2 hr drive from home. I don’t think it would matter how far – I just hope I get back to the car before I have a meltdown! I’m not good at saying goodbye, and I know he is so excited to be going, I don’t want to spoil it for him. Accepting their independence is so hard. But I still have 2 at home that I will have to go thru this with too – I guess this is practice!

  18. Just less then 2 months ago my husband past away and my daughter, her father, she is very moody and went to the guidance counselor and told them she is going to hurt herself and they made me take her to the crises center. I am going to get help for her and would like your advice. Thank you, Linda

  19. I would like to ask for advice, please. we are migrants from another country and we’ve been here for about three years now. my daughter went to a very nice public middle school where she had lots of friends. unfortunately, we bought a town house in another district so for high school, she would be separated from her friends from middle school. here is where the problem starts. she says she hates the school that she is going to now. how are we going to help her? i have tried talking to the district office where she went to school before, to try to get her in that high school but the said, they are filled up and would only take residents.
    i do not know what to do to help her cope. we have been praying hard about it and i hope God will use you as a channel to help us in our problem. thank you so much.

  20. I am glad to see articles on teens, I also have a troubled 14 yr. daughter who has low self esteen, anxiety and depression. She is being treated for this. However her oppositional behavior and negative attitde is what keeps her from moving forward. I would like to hear advise on how to handle oppositional teens, and how to change negative attitudes. Are there any good books? What about local programs in the New york area??? Or schools that redirect students into positive students…

  21. I am so happy to have found this site….it is always wonderful to find other parents who realize that raising children is a responsibility and blessing for your entire lifetime. My daughter is 16 and I have a son now 26, who has become my closest friend. Although the years of 12 to 20 are some of the most difficult to deal with, I have also found these are the years your children need your love and understanding the most. There are so many things for them to deal with in this time. I have found for me, the best way is to know my child……if you talk to them since birth…are truly interested in their lives and their friends lives….they know ! They may say hateful things, act out and be mean at times, but if they know you love them more than anything…they will always come to you. My children are the kind that have struggled with school, they are unique….musicians and artists and the loves of my life. Thank you for your website.

  22. Dear Marie-
    It sounds like YOU need some support, friend! You sound totally burned out living with a hard situation! Maybe a counselor could provide you with some support, place to chew over feelings and ideas, and help you with your son. Maybe you’re beating your head against a wall when you don’t need to.
    Lots of wishes for success!

  23. Dear Bea-
    Maybe medication would help, worth checking out?
    If you’re the spiritual type, pray like her life depends on it.

  24. Dear Marie: A 17 year old boy with self esteem problems is alot to deal with. At 17 they are so trying to find out who they are, not realizing this is a lifetime process. Perhaps if you shared with him that you too are also stil finding out who you are…as this changes as we grow. The world is a very unfriendly place to alot of teenagers because they don’t understand them. Maybe talking to his friends will help you see where the areas are you can help him. Prayers have always helped me in all times of my life, but especially in difficulty with my children. I will pray for your guidance and understanding also….from one mother to another….keep the faith…they do mature and become wonderful friends to us eventually…just remind him how much you love him and are there for him. That is all we all want. Take Care