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How to mentor a troubled teen?

Posted by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:19 AM
  • 3 Replies

Hi everybody!

I am NOT a mother of a teenager. (I am a mother of a 18 month old girl though...)

I AM however, in a sensitive situation with a teenager and I thought maybe some of you moms with teens might be able to give me a quick bit of advice.

I have a friend with a 14 year old daughter. She recently lost her dad to cancer and is also going through some really tumultous times at school (she is hanging with the wrong crowd and is facing expulsion for some actions of her friends that she can't prove were not her own.)

Her mom is working full time to support the family and the teen has been left home alone during the day a lot recently (for over a month.)

Through conversations with my friend (her mother) and two of our other friends we have come up with a plan to help fill her days. We are trying to help provide her with a mentoring type situation. We are going to pick her up in the morning and then bring her along with us for our days so she isn't home alone with nothing but boredom and her own thoughts to haunt her. (Until her schooling situation can be rectified.)

We care DEEPLY for this girl. She needs to know she is loved and cared for, which we do. She has some relationships in her life that need to come to a hault, but I don't know how we can alter those. Our main goal right now is to give her some direction. To make her realize she's not alone and that she can do some good with her days (by spending time doing productive things, playing with our kids, having conversations with us...)

My question is:

I haven't had many relationships with teenagers since I WAS a teenager. Being on the other side (finally! phew!) I know how to point out the actions that teenagers take that are NOT the wisest, but I also know that my approach could be perceived as fairly "bossy".

I want to help this girl get through a really tough time in her life without making her feel like I'm telling her she's wrong in how she has been going about things up until this point. I want her to feel needed, loved, understood...but she's also really closed. If I don't find a delicate balance between authority figure and friend she will either close up completely and not want to spend time with me OR just nod her head and say "yeah you're right I should do that" but not actually act upon it. But I don't want our time together to be all small talk. (or maybe I do?? Is that what she needs?)

Basically I just am wondering if anyone can advise me on how to have meaningful conversations with her without overstepping my bounds (as a friend of her mother rather than a family member/friend of hers) and without pushing her away.

Trust me I know that some professionals should be involved here - and the family is working toward that. I'm just trying to help with damage control as quickly as possible.

sorry that was so long! Thanks so much for taking the time to read!

by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:19 AM
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by Barbara on Jan. 29, 2013 at 11:37 AM

I wish I had some advice, but I don't have any experience with your situation. Here's a BUMP, and good luck!

by Kimberly on Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:08 PM
1 mom liked this

My advice would be to not push her.   If a meaningful conversation takes place, it will happen should not steer in that direction.     Just be her adult friend.    Laugh with her, have fun with her, take your baby to the park, make cookies, watch movies, paint your things.     Just let her be herself and you be yourself.     You can't fix her or her issues.    If she chooses to talk about what is going on with her and her life.....listen.   Don't judge.   

Have some faith in yourself...... you are not her Mother, but you are a Mother, and that will give you perspective when and if you need it while spending time with her.

by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 4:58 PM

First, I want to commend you (and your friends) on helping this woman and her daughter!!!  Most people wouldn't take time out of their lives to help another woman with her children.  You're awesome (all of you)!!!!

Anyway, I can come across as "bossy" sometimes too.  I have found that just keeping things simple is easiest.  Do the small talk thing, it's how they find out whether you're "cool" or not.  I'm glad to be on the other side of the teen years too, but I remember that I didn't like to listen to ppl who tried to act like my mom.  I also remember that my youth pastor just let us come to him; he didn't try to get into our personal lives, but we knew where he stood on issues in general.  He was the leader of a group of teens and things are a little different one-on-one.  Being an example is better than being a pain in her butt.  She may learn more from watching you go through your day and interact with your children (positive and negative situations) than from anything that you said.  She might decide to have deep, meaningful conversations with you.

To be very simple: 1.) be honest and real (be yourself) and 2.) let her dictate the depth of the relationship (don't push).

Obviously, you have to have "rules" with your children being involved, but she doesn't sound like the kind of kid you have to be afraid of.  I would just keep things simple.  "Oh, I don't let anyone else .... (change her diaper)", or "we have a rule for him, that he must ask a parent to go outside".  I guess try to word things where she's on your side, not that you're on hers or that you and she are opponents.

I hope that was helpful.  (and clear).

I'm sorry that was long. :-)

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