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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Tackling Tough Teen Issues

Dr. Carey Heller: clinical psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Carey Heller: clinical psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

Most parents dread hearing about drinking, drugs and sex. Parents often worry that their teens may get involved in situations involving these items that they disapprove of. Worse yet, parents sometimes learn that their teens are involved in things that they shouldn’t be, and don’t know what to do. While whole articles could be written on each of these items, a few basic strategies to handle these types of situations are discussed below:

1) If you suspect or find out that your teen is involved in activities that he or she should not be, ask to sit down with your teen and discuss your concerns. Many teens will lie to avoid getting into trouble, or volunteer bits and pieces of information in order to minimize their involvement in things that they should not be doing. Thus, when having this initial conversation, it is important to make it clear that you want to talk with your teen because you are concerned and want to help them, and this is not intended to pump them for information in order to provide a punishment. Agreeing to not enforce a punishment when first addressing an issue can often lead to teens being more open about what is going on.

2) Listen to what your teen is saying and try to understand things from their perspective.

3) If your teen is doing things that you disapprove of, look at a few factors with them:

  1. Is the activity illegal regardless of age (i.e., use of drugs)?
  2. Is the activity dangerous (i.e., unprotected sex with multiple partners)?
  3. Is the activity socially acceptable within their peer group?
  4. Why is your teen participating in this activity? (i.e., peer pressure, enjoys it, finds it relieves stress)

4)      Evaluate for yourself why you disapprove of the specific activity.

  1. Is it a safety issue?
  2. Is it against your morals or the morals you raised your teen with?
  3. Are you upset/worried because it is illegal?

5) Calmly discuss your concerns with your teen and let them express theirs. See if you can come up with a reasonable compromise on the issue (i.e., they agree not to participate in the activity until at least the beginning of college).

6) It is very tough for teens and parents the first time a serious issue is dealt with. For teens, it is often the first time that they experience significant disappointment from their parents when exerting their autonomy. It tends to signal the end of their parents perceiving them as being innocent children. For parents, it signals that their teens are growing up and they have less control over them, and they no longer view them as innocent children. These issues can also lead to losing trust in teens. Thus, spending time discussing your relationship and how it is changing can be helpful. Also, it is important to be very supportive of your teen even if you are furious with their decisions.

7) Make sure your teen is staying safe and if their behavior is posing a significant safety issue and they will not agree to stop it, seek assistance. Family therapy or individual therapy depending on the situation can be helpful in tackling these types of issues. In many cases, teens have their own internal issues that contribute to participation in risky activities, so therapy can be very helpful in addressing those issues while your teen is still living at home. Treatment can also provide an outside party to help teens and their parents handle conflicts to ensure that their relationship remains strong and even improve if needed.

Parenting teens is not easy. If you feel that you are struggling, seeking professional assistance can make a big difference in the life of your teen and help you be as good of a parent as you can be. Managing these types of conflicts now helps ensure that you will have a good relationship with your teen when they move out and start their own adult life.

In addition to regular blog updates, you can follow me through The Heller Psychology Group’s Social Media pages for daily postings of useful articles:

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


One Response to “Tackling Tough Teen Issues”

  1. On March 7, 2014 at 9:15 am responded with... #

    Great article; very good advice for an extremely tough subject.

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