Therapy for Families with Teens

Do you feel like you’re not connecting with your teen? Is your teen acting out?

When children become teenagers, it can feel like you don’t know them anymore. It’s especially difficult when they start misbehaving, acting out, or shutting down. Does it feel like no matter how hard you try to talk to them or solve problems, nothing works? You are not alone. So many parents go through this as their child enters adolescence. Family therapy can help you reconnect.

Family Therapy Can Help

The best time to develop a healthy, balanced family system is when children are young. But many parents don’t actively do this until a problem arises, which is most noticeable and consequential when the child is a teenager. It’s harder to establish rules and structure when they are teens if it is not established when the kids are young. The older the child is, the harder it is to turn it around. 

Often when teens act out or disconnect, it’s a reflection of the whole family system. Parents tend to blame the kid for acting out, but what else is happening in the family? Is there dysfunction in the relationship between the parents? If the teen is in a family that isn’t healthy and balanced, they’ll act out. Their problems are not isolated and are intertwined with the entire family. 

Family therapy can help you and your family put a system in place that works for all of you. Together we’ll identify what’s going on in the whole family that may be contributing to your teen’s behavior. We’ll figure out what’s currently working, what’s not, and how to restore balance. Together we can make it happen. 


David Schlagter therapist


Setting Boundaries and Sticking to Them

When parents don’t establish boundaries and consequences, teens will push. A lot of the time, teens will misbehave because they know they can and get away with it. When there aren’t clear boundaries set and no consistent consequences for breaking those boundaries and rules, they don’t feel responsible for their actions.

In family therapy we’ll create firm boundaries and consequences for when those boundaries are broken. When your teen chooses to do something that they know is wrong, they also know they are choosing the consequences as well, whatever they may be. Parents must stick to those boundaries and consequences. This helps create a healthy sense of respect for parental authority. While your teen may push back at first, eventually you will see positive changes in your teen and within the family. 

In therapy, I help your teen understand that parents have to give them consequences for their actions in order to have a happy, healthy, loving family system. They will learn that they have choices, and all of their choices lead to a consequence. Every consequence is a result of their own actions, not their parents’ or anyone else’s. The parent isn’t making them do something that leads to a punishment. When they break a rule, they are choosing the consequence that goes along with this. 

Setting clear and firm boundaries helps teens be better prepared for life. When you always blame others, you can’t move forward in life. By setting clear boundaries and consequences, teens learn to take responsibility for their own actions. When they begin to understand this and behave accordingly, it takes the pressure off of the parents, reduces resentment, and leads to a healthier relationship.


How I Approach Family Therapy

When the family comes in for therapy, my first goal is to establish rapport and help everyone feel comfortable. I am truly, genuinely interested in all of you. I know you are struggling and I want to help.

Teens often think, “I’m not crazy,” “I don’t want to be here,” or “There’s nothing wrong with me,” when they first come to therapy. I help them understand that you are all here not because there’s something wrong with any one of you, but that the family system and dynamics need to be mended. I let them know that what they have to say is equally as important as what the parents have to say. I’m not just another person telling them what to do. I want to listen and understand what’s going on in their lives and how they’re feeling.

My approach to family therapy is to work with the whole family. I’ll help you develop healthy communication so you can work through issues as a family without external intervention. Younger children are more willing to tell you what’s going on in their lives and how they feel. As they grow up, they become reserved and disrespectful, especially if they feel they aren’t being respected. As parents and adults, we have to show them respect the way you expect them to respect you. Teens often feel talked down to, which leads to them feeling reluctant to open up and acting defensive. When hurt feelings linger and issues go unresolved, it can worsen over time and lead to resentment, animosity, and isolation. In therapy I help parents to know how to talk to their teens so they’ll listen. You’ll learn how to get them to open up to you and share their feelings so you can better support them. 


You Can Be a Happy and Healthy Family

It’s a strength, not a weakness, to identify challenges and areas where we need to grow. Coming to family therapy shows that even parents can benefit from self-reflecting, being vulnerable, and holding themselves accountable. We’ll create balance and structure in the family, leading to a culture of respect, love, open communication, and interest in one another.

Once you start to begin to repair your family dynamics, you’ll be able to address and overcome issues together as a family. I sincerely care about all of you and want you all to feel better. Therapy can help your family be happy, healthy, and connected.