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Ark-La-Tex In Depth: A Parent's Guide to Troubled Teens - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Ark-La-Tex In Depth: A Parent's Guide to Troubled Teens

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

There's a reason for the old saying - 'kids will be kids.'

And teenagers generally have a reputation for testing their limits and pushing their luck.

"It's a time of a lot of development. Brain development, physical development, hormonal development and so there is a lot of information out there that's very intriguing," says Laura Brucia Hamm, Executive Director for The Center for Families in Shreveport.

Hamm says despite how far teens may go to push the envelope, it's not the end of the world.

"If kids know and trust the information that the parents are giving them, then typically, they will want to follow suit with whatever those values are."

She says it's really all about communication and finding a happy medium for laying down rules and restrictions.

"Where are my children? Who are they hanging out with? When will they be home?"

And she suggests keeping in mind the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Parents, don't be hesitant to ask for help from the community.

"Luckily, we live in a social media world, so texting, emailing, utilizing friends, teachers, neighbors to kind of help pitch in and keep and an eye out."

A survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that one in five U.S. parents think they have little control over whether their teens take up smoking, drinking, or illicit drug use.

The survey, which studied more than 67,000 Americans ages 12 and older, also found that one in every 10 parents has not talked to their teens about drugs, even though two-thirds of these same parents believe such a talk might sway their child away from these substances.

And while the extent of trouble for most teens stops at an after-school detention here and there, the heartbreak Clay Walker sees at Caddo Parish's Juvenile Detention Center is often unimaginable.

"Parenting is maybe the most important thing there is," Walker says.

Walker says summertime doesn't necessarily produce a spike in teen crime but rather a change in the types of crimes.

"Car theft, thefts in home, problems on the street, that sort of thing, problems for businesses."

Walker says parenting can feel ineffective because kids are constantly testing their boundaries, but the real problem arises when there are no boundaries to begin with.

"A lot of it is, the parents didn't necessarily have role models themselves. I know that most of the parents that I talk with are doing their best and they love their kids. They just need a little help with it."

Part of that help comes in the form of teaching parents about proper discipline. Walker suggests sticking with disciplinary measures that are consistent.

"A child that's going to push the envelope, each time they try something, it doesn't need to be escalated. You don't have to get more and more punishment, you don't have to scream at them."

For the kids he sees every day, Walker says no amount of punishment will produce good behavior because life has already taken its toll.

Instead, he says ensuring kids have something positive into which they can channel their energies is key.

"Keep them in sports. Keep them in music, keep them in anything you can because they want to stay with those kids and those kids are all headed in a more positive direction."

Though there's no getting around summer's 'idle hands' effect, Walker says don't let your frustration over kids being kids derail your efforts.

"The parent thinks it should be a straight path. It's not. Every kid is bouncing all over that road but they're not going off the path," Walker says.

For more parenting resources, including information on substance abuse, visit The Partnership at Drug Free here.

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