When my son was a teen, I would propose if, then scenarios for him and his friends to consider outcomes and consequences of their actions. For example, “If you guys go to kick so-and-so’s ass, then what? What if he has more friends, or if one of them brings a knife or a gun? Even if you guys ‘win’ the fight, then what will happen? Similarly, I’d guide them to learn from hindsight when things didn’t go as they’d hoped, so they could contemplate other courses of action and see how seemingly minor choices can change outcomes dramatically.
Show concern and caring, but do your best not to take the kid’s problems home with you.
I worked with juvenile delinquents for a couple of years and the hardest thing I had to learn was that I was not going to be a deciding factor in their lives. The same “good kids” came back time after time for the same stupid crap.
I have found, in my life, working with and along side teens, all you can really do is listen to them. If they seem like the receptive type of person, talk about your own experiences, but make sure you STRESS that they are YOUR experiences, and could very wildly from theirs.
I think what most teens want, isn’t guidance, as much as just a place to vent and be regarded as an adult, or, at the very least, mature.
Teen will think, no matter what, that they have the entire world figured out. That they know exactly how everything works, and how everything will be, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SAY THEY DON’T. I remember being a teen myself (which most adults seem to forget), and I thought the same things, “It will never change,” “Things will never get better,” “Life is worthless and meaningless,” “No one loves me…” All these and more used to be the solid, unyielding truth of life… Then I grew up. I started to see the world change.
I guess what I am saying is, you have to let them screw up. You have to let them make terrible decisions. Then, this is the most important part, BE THERE FOR THEM when the poop hits the fan. Don’t judge them and tell them “I told you so!” Just be there to listen and help when they ask for it. That is one thing I have learned time-and-time again, don’t offer help to teenagers, especially “problematic ones” (read: nearly every teen in the USA), because they ether don’t want it, or won’t listen.
When you are a teen, you have a grand idea of how you want the world to work, based on previous (juvenile) experiences, and observations of the adult world as they have been presented it (through their families, and mass media [in most cases that involves more of the internet, and less of TV]). So, they believe, based on those observations, certain things should be available, if not given, outright to them.
Teens are not logical entities. They really can’t be. They are based almost wholly off of emotions, mainly due to the fact that puberty is ravaging their minds with an indication of chemicals their bodies aren’t used to, and will take a very long time to get used to. So, if you have to talk to\work with teens of any age, think along the lines of emotion, not logic.
Don’t know if it helps, but if I was giving advice to teenagers about something, before giving the advice, I would think back on what it what it was to be a teenager. Try and bring the levels a little closer to face, and bring myself in their shoes.
Honestly, they’re told what to do and how to think by their parents, siblings, their extended families, their teachers, their clergy, the media, their friends… Most of the time, they just want someone to listen to what THEY are thinking for a change.
Also, don’t ever use the phrase “these are the best years of your life”. They’re not. Being a teenager sucks. Hardcore. Life gets better. People don’t. People will still suck, but life gets better.
Think of your own teenage years, and remember yourself at that age. I kept a diary throughout my life and it’s really helped me stay connected to some degree with tweens-teens. Usually they want to be treated like adults with respect and care.