YOLO—you only live once. This is the new spin on the old excuse to be reckless, feckless, and foolish while you’re young, and since we’ve all been there, most of us can relate. But this new spin seems to have more sinister overtones today. Recently in Oklahoma 3 youths were arrested for killing an Australian baseball player who attended an area university. The reason for the murder? The 3 boys were bored! Such homicides are called “thrill kills.” To most people they’re not thrilling; they’re chilling.
Neuroscience shows that young people often have limited impulse control because that part of the brain isn’t yet fully developed. And the daily headlines bear this out. But despite the barrage of bad news about the bad behavior of American youth, it is difficult for most of us to fathom nonsensical behaviors like texting while driving or brutally violent behaviors like that of the Oklahoma teens, and other homicidal youth about whom we’ve all read.
While few adults can purport to fully understand what goes through the mind of a teenager today what is clear is that we cannot afford to throw up our hands in disgust and give up on them. They may not be capable of impulse control, but they’re usually capable of feeling remorse. Often when a teen has been arrested for a crime, it is not unusual for them to feel that life is over.
With their raging hormones, immature emotions, and penchant for drama, they may believe that this arrest has ruined their lives. As parents, we must help them rein in these fatalistic feelings, and put things into clearer, less tragic perspective. Otherwise, if these feelings of hopelessness escalate, the teen may continue to make poor decisions based on their perception that “nothing matters now anyway.”
There are many things that you can do as a parent that will help your teen reclaim his or her life and recover from this incident. The cold light of truth should reveal to them that their behavior was not only unacceptable, but dangerous. Nonetheless, with your guidance, they may also come to realize that life is not over.
How You Can Help
- Legally. You want to make sure that you secure the services of a good defense attorney for your teen such as may be found at www.devorelawoffice.com. It is recommended that you either search for an attorney who specializes in juvenile criminal law, or one who specializes in the crime for which your teen was arrested. By hiring an attorney, you are letting your teen know that you are willing to fight for them.
- Academically. Work with your teenager, teachers, and administrators to get him back on track at school. It is natural to assume that his grades will plummet because of the arrest, but you can help to prevent a complete crash. If necessary, hire a tutor for at-home study or monitor and support him during online classes to help him catch up. And be aggressive about seeking ways to expunge his record so that college admission is still a viable option. If he realizes that his academic career hasn’t been destroyed, he may begin to feel more hopeful about his overall future.
- Socially. Normally your teenager’s social life is a parent-free zone, but this arrest will create a new normal for your whole family. It is very rare for a teen to get into trouble on his own. As gently but firmly as possible, you will need to intervene and scrutinize the types of friends he’s had. With the help of clergy, professional counselors, and peer advisors, work with your teen to help him cultivate a healthier self-image, and establish, healthier friendships.
- Involvement. If your teen seems to have no moral compass it may be because he has no personal sense of direction, and no goals to pursue. It’s easy to go astray or stray onto the wrong path if you feel that your life is going nowhere. What are your teenager’s skills, gifts, or passions? Help her recognize and embrace them. Then work with her to identify opportunities to tap into these treasures and use them constructively.
Volunteering at a nursing home, or a youth shelter; securing an internship in a field of interest; landing a part-time job—all of these activities can set her onto a solid path to healing, restoration, and personal growth. And don’t just send her—take her! You don’t have to be a helicopter mom, but you can get involved just enough to show her that you support her 100 percent.
• Love. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your teen is to shower them with love. Let them know that you are not pleased with what happened, but that your love is unconditional. Remind him that you were young once, too, and that you made a lot of poor choices way back then as well. Tell her she is forgiven, and that you will do everything you can to help her overcome this problem. Children, regardless of age, always want their parents’ love and approval.
Overall, when your teen finds themselves in trouble with the law, it is crucial for the parents to intervene and help them get back on the right track. A little bit of intervention now can prevent a lot of heartaches and hardships later in life.