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When Teens Just Want to Escape

Life as a teenager is rarely easy. There are pressures all around. But some teens struggle with such intense pain that they’ll go to dangerous lengths to escape. In this article, I’ll explain how parents can get to the root of their teen’s inner turmoil and offer practical ways to help them cope.


Things Teens Might Do to Escape
Your teen probably won’t announce his problems over Sunday dinner. But parents are likely to see symptoms. Here are five things your teen might do to escape:

1. Take risks
2. Play video games
3. Try drugs
4. Drink alcohol
5. Attempt suicide


Consider the teenager who spends hours gaming online, at the expense of homework, extracurricular activities, and even family time. Why would a teen avoid these activities, and things he used to care about? Well, in the game, teens can become another character and escape from the outside world. Alcohol and drugs can also be a way to avoid problems. Clearly some of these behaviors are less dangerous than others, but they are all ways to get relief. Sadly, some teens even see suicide as a way to make everything stop.


Some Common Reasons Teens Might Try to Escape
Parents can help train their teens in how to cope and confront their pain, but first you need to understand what’s causing the trouble. Teens often hide their pain from parents, so it may take some detective work to get at the real problem. Here are five common problems teens may try to escape from:

1. Tension with parents at home
2. Loss of something they loved, perhaps a relationship, a dream, or a friend
3. Being bullied at school
4. Personal shame from messing up
5. Grief over some traumatic event.


How Can Parents Get to the Root of WHY a Teen Wants to Escape
The number one thing parents can do to help their teens, is to build and maintain a strong relationship. If you’ve drifted apart, it’s time to reconnect! You may not think your teen wants to talk to you, but trust me he does. It’s the parent’s job to start the conversation. So ask your teen what he’s feeling. Even if he can’t articulate what’s wrong, you will get clues as to what they’re anxious about or what is going on in their life. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions! In fact, I often suggest that parents simply text their teens and ask them how they feel. Sometimes all it takes is a pointed question to find out why your teens wants. Your relationship with your teen is SO important. Don’t lose it!

If your teen is unwilling to open up, you may need to dig deeper. Parents can talk to their teen’s friends. A trusted friend may be able to give you a clue to what is going on. It may even be helpful to have a trusted person––such as a youth group leader, coach, counselor, or grandparents––ask the questions. These sources may help get the conversation started, but the goal is to open up a relationship between teens and their parents that lasts a lifetime.


5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Cope Well

1. Talk about what you’re observing in your teen. Call out what you see and name the behavior. Let your teen know that you see what’s happening and tell them what you want to see differently.
2. Put restrictions where needed. Teens still need Mom and Dad to draw the line. Set age-appropriate limits on behavior, such as social media, curfews, drug testing (if needed), and then establish clear consequences for breaking these boundaries. But remember it’s your teen’s heart that really matters. Make sure they understand that these limits are there because you love them.
3. Help your teen find a way to blow off steam. Examples may include exercise, talking things out, yoga, horseback riding, journaling, etc.
4. Model good “escape” methods. Teens often mimic the coping behavers they see at home. If Mom and Dad are stressed and scroll on their phone, watch TV for hours, or get drunk, then teens may try the same. On the other hand, if you show your teen how to talk through troubles, take a walk to cool down, exercise to reduce stress, or enjoy family time to reconnect, your teen will discover that there are ways to better handle life’s pain.
5. Get help. If your teen’s method of escape is tearing the family apart, get help. Now is the time for action. Don’t ignore the problem. Get support for yourself, as well. If your teen is suicidal, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY.


Hey moms and dads … your teens live in an intense atmosphere of comparison, criticism, competitiveness, and cultural confusion. It’s the world that you have said that you’re glad that you don’t have to live in, but they do. You must create a place of peace for your teen at home or you’ll have to deal with your teen’s actions to find relief elsewhere, and sometimes with inappropriate behaviors. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” You can never be as close to the heart of God than when you create a home that is a place of safety and comfort, one of encouragement and hope, and one that entices your child to let their hair down in your presence.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.