Archives for November 2014

How Do I Prevent My Teen From Becoming Violent?

Anger is an emotion that every individual must learn to control throughout their lives and teens are no exception. When normal anger morphs into extreme aggressiveness or violence, it can be frightening and intimidating for parents to handle. While girls and boys are both at some risk for becoming violent, girls usually express their anger verbally, while boys are more likely to punch walls, kick doors or throw objects. When violent tendencies emerge outside the home as well, it can cause serious and long lasting consequences. There are some things you can do to help prevent your teen from becoming violent and help him learn to manage his anger in a healthy way.

  • Establish Rules and Consequences – During a calm time, when your teen is receptive to discussion; explain that while there is nothing wrong with anger, it must be expressed in an acceptable way. Let him know that lashing out violently in any situation will result in loss of privileges or even police involvement.
  • Dig a Little Deeper – There is often a reason behind the anger in teens and it may help if you are able to uncover it. Sadness and depression, feelings of inadequacy or even bullying may all be the culprits behind negative behavioral issues.
  • Healthy Releases – Help your teen find a healthier way to relieve his anger. Activities such as sports, listening to music, going for a run or even hitting a pillow or punching bag are all acceptable ways to deal with rage and tension. See if you can identify what some of his main triggers are in order to practice different coping methods.
  • Set a Good Example – Teens often reflect what they observe at home, so it is important that you are demonstrating effective anger management techniques and not lashing in out in violence yourself. You cannot expect your teen to adopt behavior that you are unwilling to.
  • Keep the Lines of Communication Open – Your teen may not always be easy to talk to during the adolescent years, but it is important that you continue to make the effort to connect so that they are more comfortable talking to you when you need to discuss serious things like violence or behavioral concerns.
  • Understand that if your teen is violent toward you or that you feel as though you are in physical danger, you should seek help immediately. Calling a friend, neighbor or the police does not mean that you don’t love your child enough; it means that you are putting the safety of your family first.

There are times when teens become violent no matter what prevention techniques you try. Social pressure, mental disorders or other reasons might influence how your teen handles his anger. If you have concerns for the safety of your teen or your family, or it seems as though nothing you say or do has helped, you may want to consider a full time residential facility. These programs immerse troubled teens in a therapeutic environment where they can learn effective anger management and prepare to turn their lives around.  

Help, My Troubled Teen Is Violent

It can be frightening and intimidating when your teen begins to display violent tendencies. Whether it is happening at home, or you are receiving reports of bullying and fights, teen violence can lead to negative habits and even life changing consequences. While the severity of the violence involved may require outside professional help, there are still some things you can do as a parent to help your teen learn to control his anger and express it in a more healthy way:

  • Consistent Rules and Consequences – Teens need consistency more than ever and particularly in the home. You should give your teen a clear idea of what is an unacceptable way to display anger and what the consequences are if he breaks the rules or puts others in danger. Depending on the situation and your teen’s history, this can result in loss of consequences or even police involvement. He should know that you are ready and willing to help him learn how to manage his anger, but that you will not stand for violent behavior.
  • Communicate – It is easy to let communication slip between you and your teen during the adolescent years as he becomes less and less interested in talking. However, you need to offer him as many opportunities to talk as possible in order to determine whether there is something deeper that is driving the violence. Teens often lash out because of sadness or depression, feelings of inadequacy or social insecurity. Once you determine what the problem is, you can help him address it.  
  • Alternative Releases – It may help your teen to identify alternative ways to release his tension or anger. Team sports, listening to or playing music, going for a long run, hitting a pillow or punching bag  or learning to walk away and cool off are all healthy ways to deal with anger. Figuring out what his main triggers are can help him practice different coping methods.
  • Be an Example – It is more important than ever for you to set a good example for your teen as they often absorb what they observe at home. Demonstrating effective anger management techniques in your relationship and day to day challenges may help your teen learn to follow your example.
  • Safety – You have a right to feel safe in your own home. Know that if your teen is aggressive toward you or you are concerned for the immediate safety of anyone in the home, you should seek help immediately. Calling a neighbor, friend or even the police does not mean that you are an inferior parent or that you don’t love your teen enough. The safety of both your teen and your family should always come first.

In situations where you are not seeing any results from your efforts or your teen is getting more out of control, it may be necessary to turn to professional help. Residential treatment centers are programs that help troubled boys identify their issues and learn to deal with them in a full time therapeutic environment where they can gain the skills they need in order to manage anger effectively and turn their lives around.

Take Action During Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February has been designated as teen dating violence awareness month (TDVAM) by Congress and presents a valuable opportunity to spread the word and educate individuals on one of the most dangerous situations adolescents face. While teen dating violence doesn’t get as much press and awareness as issues like substance abuse or depression, it is becoming increasingly prevalent among young people. Like any kind of abuse, it shames and isolates its victims, leaving many teens afraid or embarrassed to speak out or take the steps they need to fix their situation.

There are a number of things that teens, parents and educators can do to raise awareness of teen dating violence, during February and throughout the year.

  • Parents - Discuss the aspects of a healthy relationship with your teen as well as modeling it in your own relationship as much as possible. Make it clear that love is about respect, friendship and compromise rather than control, jealousy or abuse of any kind. Discuss the different types of abuse; physical, emotional and sexual, and explain what is out of boundaries in a healthy relationship. Make effort to foster a relationship of trust with your teen, so that you can be a safe place for him/her to come to in times of trouble.
  • Teens - Participate in Respect Week. During February, the National Youth Advisory Board has set aside a week for fundraising and awareness-raising activities. You can participate in a planned event or even create one of your own using the tips and toolkit information provided on their website. By contributing your time and effort, or even just wearing orange in support of violence awareness, you can help educate others on the dangers posed by teen dating violence.
  • Educators – Spread awareness among your students each February by registering to take part in the National Respect Announcement, which states:

    “This Valentine’s Day, we’d like to remind you that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, visit loveisrespect.org or text "loveis" to 22522.

    Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn't one of them.”

    By reading this statement across the school’s intercom, sharing it with your classes or posting it around campus, you will be joining the voice that ensures that teens know where to go and who to approach if they are involved in a violent or unhealthy relationship.

It requires a collaborative effort by teens, parents and educators in order to put a stop to teen dating violence. Through awareness and education, individuals can take on a direct role in breaking the cycle of violence while building the tools and resources that are needed for the work to continue and grow. Taking action during teen dating violence awareness month means being part of the solution. 

Teen Dating Violence: What to Know

Teen dating violence is one of the most prevalent, and hidden, dangers that teens face today. An estimated 1.5 million adolescent boys and girls in the U.S. report being intentionally physically harmed by their dating partner in the last year. Aside from the immediate consequences of dating violence, abused teens are more likely to suffer from issues such as eating disorders, promiscuity and substance abuse. Teen girls who have experienced abuse are 6 times more likely to contact an STD or become pregnant.

There are a number of reasons why teen dating violence gets less attention among peers than other age appropriate issues such as mood disorders or substance abuse. Like any kind of abuse, the victims often feel ashamed of their situation or worried that they will be blamed or receive further consequences, either from parents or from their partner. A recent study concluded that only one third of reported teens involved in an abusive relationship confided in a friend, parent or authority figure. Many teens even confuse jealousy, possessiveness and control with love and may not be aware that their relationship is unhealthy or abusive. While most people know that domestic violence is against the law, many don’t know or understand the laws surrounding teen violence. In fact, 8 states in the U.S. still do not consider teen violence to be punishable as domestic abuse. Because of this, victims have a much more difficult time obtaining a protective or restraining order against their abuser.

What Should I Watch For?

As a parent, you should understand that dating violence affects teens of all ages and can occur regardless of racial or socioeconomic status. It is not reasonable to assume that your teen is exempt as long as they are participating in a social life that involves the opposite sex. 72 percent of 13-14 year olds are “dating” and violent behavior most often manifests between 6th and 12th grade.

You can help your teen avoid becoming a victim of abuse in many ways. You should consistently educate your child on the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships. If possible, providing an example of love and respect in the home will go a long way toward teaching your teen what to expect in a healthy relationship as well as how to treat their dating partner. Although teens are notoriously hard to talk to during the adolescent years, make sure you keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Through this, you can be aware of what is going on in your child’s relationship as well as offering yourself as a safe place to confide if needed. You will also be aware of any behavioral changes, such as less socialization, depression or anxiety that may indicate a problem.

You can also help your teen by fostering positive development at home and in the community. This can include high levels of bonding and nurturing positive communication. Encouraging social groups and activities that build self-esteem can also be protection against victimization. Putting a stop to teen dating violence requires a collaborative effort by teens, parents and educators. By spreading awareness, teens are more likely to recognize an unhealthy relationship and break the cycle of violence that can result in life-long consequences. 

Teen Violence Articles

While power struggles and arguments with your teen are a normal part of the adolescent years, violence and extreme aggression can leave you feeling out of your element. It is not uncommon for parents to feel intimidated raising a teen at risk for harming himself or others. Some even hesitate to seek help or support because they feel that having a severely troubled teen is a negative reflection of their parenting skills. While researchers have identified some potential causes for teen violence, they are reluctant to refer to them as anything other than risk factors. Every teen is unique and there is rarely one single reason they become violent.

Parents seeking answers will fare best when they arm themselves with knowledge. Understanding what might be driving your teen’s violence can help you eliminate or reduce risk factors, while learning how to handle your teen’s aggression. This collection of articles is a consolidated list of the best resources and information you need in order to understand your teen and help him learn more effective coping techniques. Being as informed as possible will help you get your child back on the path to a happy and successful future. 

The Hard Facts On Teen Violence

Youth violence includes harmful behaviors that are either physical or emotional. It encompasses everything from hitting and bullying to serious injury and death. Youth violence is such a problem in the United States that it is the second leading cause of death for individuals between 15 and 24.

  • In 2011, over 707,000 youth aged 10 to 24 years were treated in U.S. emergency departments for physical assault injuries. That is an average of 1,938 a day.
  • The same study reported that 5% of high school students reported taking a weapon to school in the 30 day period before the survey.
  • 20% of high school students reported that they had been bullied on school property and 16% were cyberbullied.

Every year, assault related injuries and homicides result in $16 billion in combined work loss and medical costs. It is clear that youth violence can also lead to an increase in health care costs, decrease in property value and cause disruption among local social services.

Who Is At Risk?

There are a number of factors that can increase a teen’s risk for violence; however, not all youth with these factors will become offenders. Some of these are:

  • Drug, alcohol or tobacco use
  • Delinquent social group
  • Stressful home life
  • Poverty in the community
  • Prior history of violence

Prevention

Experts believe that intervention at a young age is critical. It is estimated that many violent behaviors are solidified in the earliest years, with victims of abuse at the highest risk to become violent themselves. Training parents of young children has proven to be the most successful of widespread intervention options throughout the country. Multiple programs have been implemented that work to change the trajectory of families at risk by teaching parents different strategies and parenting skills such as:

 

  • Healthy play with children
  •  

    • Helping young children learn
    • Setting effective limits
    • Handling misbehavior
    • Preparing children for the school experience
    • Access to community resources
    • Use of healthy praise and encouragement

    By helping parents learn how to anticipate and solve problems, they can take the lead on preventing and managing behavioral issues in their children before they become teens. The programs for younger children center around healthy parent-child interaction.

    There are also community programs in place for parents of teens who are already displaying violent behavior. Between therapy and outreach options, parents can learn skills they need to help their teen turn his life around and become a healthier and happier individual. In some cases, parents are unable to provide the intensive help that their teen needs in order to recover. In such cases, residential treatment centers offer full time options for helping teens learn to cope with their violent tendencies in a more effective way. 

    What Are the Warning Signs of Teen Violence?

    Although teen violence and dating abuse awareness don’t get as much recognition as some of the other common pitfalls of adolescence, it is alarmingly prevalent. In fact, it is estimated that around 33% of high school students will experience some form of abuse or violence from their significant other before leaving high school. 1 in 3 teenagers report knowing someone who had been punched, hit, slapped, choked or otherwise physically hurt by their dating partner. Approximately 1 in 5 teen girls claimed that a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up. These numbers bring to light the growing problem of teen violence, as does the estimated rate of disclosure. While 73% of teens claimed that they would turn to a friend for help in the event of a violent relationship, only 33% who had either been in or known about one actually told anyone.

    There are many reasons why teens keep violence or abuse to themselves. Shame, self-blame, embarrassment and fear are fairly common reasons for teens to keep silent. They may also be afraid that parents or authority figures will make them break up, blame them for being weak, create new rules and take away privileges. Many teens are inexperienced enough to be unaware that what they are experiencing is not healthy or normal. It is for these reasons, among others, that parents should be just as watchful for the signs of teen violence as they are for substance abuse or mood disorders. While teen violence can impact both boys and girls, it is statistically females who are more at risk.

    • Physical Injury – While not every bump or bruise needs to be remarked upon, pay attention if your teen has frequent major or minor injuries or is claiming to be more “accident prone” than usual.
    • Isolation – Has your teen become less social than she used to be? Does she hesitate to go out with friends or participate in activities without her boyfriend? Abusers often try to isolate their victims in order to consolidate control in the relationship.
    • Poor School Performance – Skipping classes, failing grades or dropping out of school activities are all warning signs that there may be something going on in your teen’s life that needs investigating.
    • Behavioral Changes – Any changes in eating or sleeping habits can be attributed to emotional turmoil of some kind. Other behavior, such as avoiding eye contact or becoming secretive or depressed can also be indicative of abuse. On the other end, it can also manifest through emotional outbursts or acting out.
    • Control Issues – Does your teen’s boyfriend constantly offer “advice” regarding clothing, weight, hair, friends and extracurricular activities? Does she feel compelled to follow his instructions and fearful if she can’t? Does he call or text constantly to know where she is, who she is with and what they are doing? Abusers often attempt to control every aspect of their victim’s life.

    If you suspect that your teen is involved in a violent relationship, you should open the lines of communication as much as possible. Listen to your teen and acknowledge that it is a scary situation and your concern is for her safety. Educate her on the aspects of a healthy relationship as well as what is not acceptable behavior. Abuse of any kind is emotionally damaging and it is important that your teen sees you as an ally and not a judge if you are to help her change her situation.

    What is Making My Teen Violent?

    When children enter the adolescent years, they begin to experience higher levels of anger and frustration as they transition into adulthood and a greater sense of independence. While arguments, eye rolling, shouting and door slamming are fairly normal, some teens take their anger a step further and become aggressive and violent with family members and others. While it can be difficult to admit that your teen has a violence problem, it is important to try to determine what may be driving it, so you can help him fix it. While researchers admit that there is not usually one single cause for teen violence, they have identified some risk factors that contribute to the problem.

    What Are The Causes Of Youth Violence?

    • Abuse – According to the CDC, a violent or abusive family situation may contribute to teen violence. Because children absorb and reflect what they see, witnessing aggression in the home may increase the risk of similar behavior. The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence determined that domestically abusive situations lead to impairments in cognitive and emotional development in children, which then puts them more at risk for aggressive tendencies.
    • Social and Media – Extensive studies have identified a link between violent television shows, video games and teen learning. Interactive video games that encourage players to commit simulated violent acts, not only blur the lines between violent behavior and consequences, but actually reward aggression. Video games and other violent media also impair a teen’s ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
    • Mental Health – Violent behavior can sometimes be attributed to an underlying mental disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which manifests in defiance, aggression and consistent hostility toward authority figures. While actual diagnosis needs to be left to a mental health professional, early detection and intervention will help give your teen the best opportunity to develop the skills he needs to transition into a healthy adulthood.
    • Social Influence – Teens may become violent and aggressive as a result of negative social influence. This can include anything from friends that encourage and idealize violence to an emotional response to being bullied. Determining means that you must be aware of who your teen’s friends are and how he is spending his time. Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen can help you figure out whether he is reacting from peer abuse.

    Because these risk factors may or may not apply to your teen, it is important you understand that handling the violence that your teen is displaying may not be as simple as turning off the television or having a talk. Knowing what many of the risk factors are can help you eliminate them in order to help guide your teen toward the help he needs in order to get his anger under control. If you feel unsafe or your teen doesn’t seem to be responding to anything you try, it may be best to consult a therapist or mental health professional that can help you determine what is the best option to help your teen turn his life around.  

    Help! My Teen May Be In A Violent Relationship

    Of all the dangers that parents think that they will need to help their teens steer clear of during the adolescent years, relationship violence doesn’t often make the short list. While dating abuse doesn’t get as much awareness as substance abuse or mood disorders, it is frequent enough and serious enough that parents should be aware of the warning signs. Dating abuse occurs in teens from every type of social and ethnic groups regardless of economic background. The three types of tactics used in an abusive relationship are:

    1.       Emotional/Psychological Abuse – This includes verbal abuse such as name calling, guilt trips, humiliation, possessiveness, threatening to damage the reputation, isolation and intimidation.

    2.       Physical Abuse – Involves hitting, slapping, shoving, choking or any physical harm. It also includes threats of violence, restraining, property destruction or using weapons to intimidate or control.

    3.       Sexual Abuse – This includes sexual assault, rape, spreading sexual rumors or sexual jokes or humiliation.

    What Do I Look For?

    People in violent relationships often display certain behavioral changes or new emotions. As a parent, you are in the unique position of being able to assess any alterations in your teen’s usual personality as long as you know what to watch for.

    • Isolation – Does your teen seem less social than she used to be? Abusers often try to isolate their victims from their usual support group in order to keep control of the relationship. It usually begins with friends and then moves to outside activities and family.
    • Constant Communication – Does your teen’s significant other call or text constantly in order to know where she is at all times? This may include inquiries about what she is doing, who she is with and what they are talking about.
    • Emotional Changes – Once abuse begins, victims are often sad and desperate, but afraid to talk about why.
    • Extreme Jealousy – Does interaction with others cause consistent or obsessive jealousy on the part of your teen’s significant other?
    • Control – Does your teen receive lots of “advice” on everything from clothing, makeup and hair to friends and social activities? Does she always feel pressured to comply with his choices?

    What Can I Do?

    Teens are often reluctant to tell their parents about any abuse they are experiencing. They may be ashamed or convinced that the abuse is their fault. They may also be concerned that their parents will be disappointed in them or try to make them break up. Many teens confuse jealousy with love and may not fully recognize that what they are experiencing is not healthy or normal.

    If you suspect that your teen is in a violent relationship, you may need to tread carefully even when your instinct is to rush in and forcibly save her. If your teen has been physically injured or assaulted, then you should take immediate action by involving the authorities to guarantee her safety. However, helping your teen in the long run requires educating her and building a relationship of nonjudgmental trust. You should clearly describe what you see happening in their relationship and then give your teen a chance to talk without putting her in a position to have to defend her significant other. Acknowledge that the situation is difficult and frightening, that you want her to be safe and that you want to open the discussion for how you both can accomplish that. Above all, keep the lines of communication open. Teens are notorious for shutting down when pressured. It is important for you to educate your teen about what behaviors are considered abusive in a relationship. If your teen is reluctant to listen to you, a therapist may be a helpful resource for helping your teen become safe and healthy. 

    Why is My Teen Violent?

    As children become teens, they spend a lot of time at conflict with themselves and others. Because they are experiencing a newfound sense of independence as they transition into adulthood, they frequently engage in power struggles with authority figures, particularly parents. While arguments and anger are normal to all teens, violence and extreme aggression are not. Many parents are ashamed to admit that their teen has a problem with violence because they feel that it reflects on their success and skill in raising them, however, they should still seek help and support.  While family and lifestyle factors can be contributors, researchers have ultimately concluded that there is not usually one single cause for why teens become violent. In fact, because of the combination of factors unique to each teen, experts prefer to identify potential causes as ‘risk factors’ rather than a conclusive reason.   

    What Are The Causes Of Youth Violence?

    • Modeling Behavior – Studies conducted by the CDC determined that children who witness or experience violence or aggression at home are more likely to display the characteristics themselves. Immersion in a domestic abuse situation can lead to cognitive and emotional development impairment, which can result in violent tendencies.
    • Mental Health – Mental health issues can sometimes be the culprit behind particularly aggressive behavior. Undiagnosed disorders such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder or Bipolar Disorder are all examples of mental conditions that include violence as a symptom. While treatment, therapy and medication can help teens with mental health issues, they should be officially assessed by a professional. Early intervention gives teens their best shot for developing the skills to cope more effectively.
    • Violent Media – Studies have identified a strong link between violent video games and movies and teen learning. Interactive video games are considered particularly damaging because they allow players to simulate violent acts and rewards the aggression without consequences. A teen, whose pre-frontal cortex is still developing, is at risk for being less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Graphic and violent movies blur the distinction between what is right and wrong while glorifying violence.  
    • Social – Your teen’s social environment can have a large impact on his actions. Friends and peers that encourage violence or criminal activity may have more sway over your teen’s choices and decisions than you do. Violence and aggression can also be a response to being bullied or experiencing some other stress outside the home.

    What Can I Do?

    Some of these risk factors may apply to your teen and reducing or eliminating them when possible can be helpful. However, remember that helping your teen become less violent may not be as simple as taking away the video games. While the safety of yourself and your family should be your first priority, you can still help your teen by being consistent about rules and consequences for violent behavior. Try to keep the lines of communication open with your teen. When he is calm, discuss alternative options for handling his anger and help him implement them. If he doesn’t seem to be improving or responding to anything you try, you may consider professional help through therapy or even a full time residential facility that will help him learn to deal with his day to day challenges in a healthy and effective way.