Adolescence is a time of change. It is essential to note that not all teenagers are locked in conflict with their parents and the migration to adulthood can be achieved without major strain. For others, adolescence may be a time of what one author described as a "normal psychosis" in which the parents may need help in "riding the adolescent rapids" until both emerge.

Actually there is not much disagreement about what the goals are at that point in the young person's life. Parents recognize that their child is preparing to move into an independence of adulthood and the exercise of their free will. Teenagers are aware of their opinions of life and the world around them and they want to chart their own course of action. The problem arises in the methods use and the risks posed from a poor choice. Drugs, pregnancy, poor academic success all lay the foundation of a life-long struggle for the child (and heart ache for the parents).

My approach with adolescents (and with my adult clients) is to offer them respect for their ability to exercise their free will and to work at helping them to not ignore the results of their decisions. I point out to them that if we could stop drug abuse and teen pregnancy then we would not have any and, since we have so much of both, then it is obvious that we have to attempt to partner with the young person to help them in the decision which will be entirely under their control. This respect of the teenager may put me at odds with their parents or others but I believe the attitude is necessary if I am going to be able to connect with them at a place where they may be open to what I have to say.

At the same time that I respect the adolescent's free and the limits of the authority of their parents, myself and others I also work to validate the efforts of these caregivers even while the effect may be totally lost. Watching another make poor choices and destroying their life is a difficult matter and yet it may not be possible to intervene beyond a point. While you may be able to lock a person up until they are 18 or otherwise restrict them but once they reach "the age of majority" they have the freedom to get into all sorts of trouble. I attempt to help the caregivers to copy with these fears regarding negative peer groups and pressure and to understand that they can be active and helpful if only for themselves.

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