Letter: Coping With Misbehaving Teens
To the Editor:
The call came from the police in the early evening informing us that our son and a friend had been caught vandalizing town property. With shock and anxiety, we rushed to the station. The event turned on what the boys saw as a prank but that the officials saw as a serious misdemeanor. The differences in perceptions were striking. After further discussions with both officials and our son, we acknowledged that our understanding of our son’s developmental level was not accurate.
A recent Valley News editorial “Teenage Confessions,” especially the statement, “Teenagers are not, it is clear, just younger versions of adults,” provides insights about the nature of brain development of teenagers.
Most of us can clearly recall instances of angrily confronting our teenager’s errant behavior, whether it be a form of rebellion, a “reasonable” request or behavior bordering on a misdemeanor or worse. Many parents know that a key to bringing up one’s child is to understand his or her level of development. Another is to hold on, often desperately, to one’s sanity, especially during the teenage years, to safeguard the child’s growth to adulthood. There are, of course, resources to help parents cope with a teen’s misbehavior. In our case, we were fortunate to connect with several other families experiencing traumas regarding their sons, and with the help of a social worker, we, as a group, vented our frustrations and learned about teen development.
Our sons were not in serious trouble with the law. However, for those families whose children have received a citation for breaking a law, an important resource is the Windsor County Court Diversion Program in White River Junction. If your child is eligible for diversion, he or she meets with the diversion case manager and, in turn, you and your child meet with a review panel of trained community volunteers to develop a contract for making amends. These efforts represent a saving grace for many teens and their families: With the successful completion of the contract, a child avoids having a criminal record. The diversion program represents a supportive, humane response to children and families in need.