Helping teens make right choices never easy

  • Friday, November 8, 2013

Dear Liz,

My eldest is a freshman in high school. I don’t dare give out identifying information because she would kill me. It’s tough enough of a social scene. We are a pretty religious family, Christian, with great values and a 24-7 approach. She recently seemed down and finally admitted she is confused and disappointed with the behavior and choices of some of her friends - even those who attend the same church.

I just listened and commended her for her concern for them. Is there more I can do? I, naturally, worry that she might follow suit to stay “in” - or get more confused and down. Any suggestions?

Proud mom

Dear “Proud mom,”

Good job in the parenting and faith and value department. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful gal with great standards. As a counselor, I wholeheartedly believe in high standards for today’s youth - more than ever as the temptations and dangers increase. It is fantastic when we “grow” our kids this way - but it is never too late.

I tell all the youth I work with to have realistically high expectations and high standards to protect them from the sorrow and woes of the mistakes we can make. Again, even so, it is never too late to improve behavior and choices. Our church uses the phrase “Choose the right” (CTR ), and practicing making good choices starts very young.

Keep those lines of communication open. Check in with her. If you ever feel a friend of your daughter is in danger, work together to inform the right person who can protect him or her.

These kids do not want to be a “snitch.” Explain the difference between that, and saving someone’s life, potentially. Giving information to the right person in time can do just that. It often can be done in complete confidence.

If she stays down about it - please seek short term supportive counseling for her with a licensed professional with a lot of experience working with teens. (Find one with similar beliefs if possible.) Tell her it gives her a safe place to share her worries and concerns, develop new and better coping skills and even promise confidentially. Generally the limits of confidentiality are that a counselor must seek assistance if a person is a risk to themselves or others. I have never had to go behind a teen’s back - been blessed to convince the teen the importance of taking the next step for safety - and help those teens in communicating with the right person. Again, thank you for your efforts in raising a well-rounded, spiritually grounded young lady. Give her love and support to stay that way and reward her openness.

Finally, I am sure there is a confidential way to express concern to the right church leader. Between good parents, school counselors, licensed counselor and/or good church leaders - we can go far in helping these teens live good satisfying lives. Great question. For helpful guidance for teens about dealing with temptations and making good choices check out “For the Strength of Youth” booklets (one for girls, one for boys) via www.lds.org/for strength of youth).

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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