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When Your Child Needs Help

Moms and dads try everything they can to set their kids up for success in life, but not every teen makes a smooth transition into adulthood. For some there are bumps along the way. In this article, I’ll suggest ways parents can help their adolescent children engaging in self-destructive behaviors. I’ll also explain what we provide at Heartlight Ministries and where you can go when your teen’s behavior is more serious.

Come Alongside

When your teen becomes an adult, you won’t have as much control and influence as you did when they were younger, but your child still needs and wants your help at any age—and you have tremendous power to help. Come alongside your child in love. Listen to his fears, problems, confusion, or whatever is going on with a loving heart. I promise you won’t like some of what you hear, but no matter what you think of his life choices, communicate clearly that you are “on his team.” That doesn’t mean you agree with his behavior, but it does mean that you value your relationship and you want to help.

Do What You Can to Stop the Self-Destructive Behavior

You can try to get your teen to go to therapy or rehab, but by the time they are adults you’ll need their permission. If your teen is not cooperative, be sure to communicate that you are willing to help when they are ready to receive it. If possible, get help for them.

What most teens really need is for a parent to step into their world and step up to support and guide them through adolescence. That’s why we offer, radio programs, articles, book, and conferences for parents on thousands of topics to support you as you build a deeper relationship with your teen. But, when self-destructive behaviors, mental health, or drug addiction are too severe, we often refer families to other kinds of treatment centers to get help for their teen.

Heartlight Ministries is a residential counseling center and boarding school for struggling teens aged 13-17. Our program offers a unique, transformative journey through a relational experience that offers counseling, small group therapy, academics, and activities. But I recognize our program is not the right fit for every problem.

Stonewater Recovery Center is one of the best programs for helping teens with serious, self-destructive behaviors. It was founded by a former Heartlight kid, Bryan Fikes. Many years ago, when Bryan was a teen, he got himself into serious drug addiction. After receiving intensive drug addiction treatment, Bryan transferred to Heartlight to gain the skills he needed to return to his family.  Years later, Bryan and his family started the Stonewater Recovery Center to help other teens dealing with tough problems. This is a 60 to 90-day residential program that offers comprehensive, highly customized, and innovative treatment addressing adolescent substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. If your teen needs more intensive help than Heartlight provides, there are programs that can help.

Get Help for Yourself

Don’t wait for your teen to accept help before you get help for yourself. No matter what age your child is when he struggles, it will take a toll on you and your spouse. So find a support group, find a friend who will listen without judgment, and avoid the temptation to isolate yourself from others because you are embarrassed about your child. Your example may even motivate your teen to be willing to accept the help you are offering. Most importantly, don’t wait until life gets unbearable to pray. Pray for your children daily and let them know you’re praying for them.

Above All, Keep the Relationship

Your relationship with your teen is essential. Show a true desire to spend time with them, expressing your love, even during tough times. That doesn’t mean that you agree with your teen’s behavior and poor choices, but it does mean you love him no matter what. Engage your teen in deep conversations, asking questions and seeking to understand his heart. Remember all behavior is goal oriented. That means there is something that is motivating your teen’s choices. Your job is to ask question, listen, and discover the root cause. Finally, be patient. You may see change happen quickly or not see change for years. No matter what, be hopeful and patient.


Hey moms and dads …. I know that many of you have been stuck in the same place that Bryan was stuck in for a few years. It’s when addiction, mental illness, and other deviant behaviors start to take over and ruin relationships and possibly your family. Well, now you’ve heard of a program that has our stamp of approval––founded and run by a fellow that understands what we’re all about. So it means he understands what you are going through and might have some answers that you’re looking for. You know, I don’t usually push another program, or promote something in particular, but this is one resource that will help teens and families for years to come. Stonewater Recovery Center might just be the place for your teen.

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.