5 Paths to Hope When Your Relationship With Your Teen Feels Hopeless

The teenage years can be a trying time. Between raging hormones, remarkable shifts in brain development, and the stress of making decisions likely to affect the rest of their lives, teens can feel as though life is putting them through the wringer. It’s no wonder they and their parents can struggle to find common ground. While some dissension and difficulty is normal, for some families, relationships and behavior can devolve in alarming ways. If you and your teen are at an impasse, whether due to failing grades, addiction, or other problems, it can feel like your situation is hopeless. It’s not. There are many paths that lead to hope when you and your teen’s relationship has run aground. Here are five of them.

1. Alternative Schooling 

Sometimes, your teen’s behavior is so destructive that it seems certain she’ll end up in trouble with the law or worse. When the situation is dire, consider completely shifting your teenager’s context. There are scores of alternative schools around the country that specialize in helping your teen identify and work through her problems, and some of the best — like Diamond Ranch — can do this within the context of a normal boarding school environment. For teens whose needs are complex, the right alternative school can make all the difference in the world — for your child and for your family.

2. Therapy

Sometimes, the trouble an adolescent is going through is something that can be addressed through therapy of one kind or another. For a teenager dealing with body image issues, anxiety, depression, and the like, a weekly individual session with a cognitive behavioral therapist can help set things right. If addiction issues are surfacing, whether food, drug, or alcohol-related, group therapy that targets these behaviors and their triggers can be useful, and of course, family therapy is a great option when your tribe is struggling and everyone is in need of hearing one another and being heard.

3. Creative Outlets

Practicing creativity can help many troubled parent-teen relationships. Whether you enroll your teen in a painting course at a local community center or finally indulge his desire to play the drums by giving him a drum set and a block of lessons, creativity can foster self-expression and self-acceptance in ways that can revolutionize relationships. Ask your teen about how he would like to express himself creatively — writing, theatre, piano, dance, filmmaking — and put as many options on the table as make sense given your financial situation and what is offered in your community. It may be that a creative outlet is enough to slowly but surely change the tide in how you and your adolescent relate to one another.

4. Aim for Laughter

Humor isn’t just enjoyable; it also relieves tension and elevates your mood. When you and your teen are at odds with one another, aim for laughter by taking in some comedy together. From Seinfeld reruns to Saturday Night Live, there are scores of televisions shows that will give you both plenty of chances to relax and laugh. You can also take in some comedic theater or local improv if you live in a city where you’re lucky enough to have access to that type of entertainment. Sitting down to a game can also provide fodder for laughing. In whatever way makes sense for you and your family, increase the odds that your teenager and you can find a way to laugh together.

5. Remove Stress and Expectations

It’s not uncommon for the stress of parental expectations to wear a teen down. Whether the problem is his own perfectionism or the fact that he isn’t interested in the types of activities and academics that you require of him, removing the stress he is under can fundamentally improve your relationship. Most parents want to believe that what they expect from their children is always in their children’s best interest, and while that sentiment is almost always true, the way in which the sentiment is experienced by a child can vary. Talk to your teen, and take the time to really listen. Just because he’s an exceptional tennis player doesn’t mean he wants to take lessons three days a week and travel to tournaments out of state. Just because taking calculus will impress college admissions counselors doesn’t mean your math-hating kid can stomach the work required in an advanced math course. Your child is unique, and if he’s struggling, it may be that his uniqueness is being overlooked. Examine what you’re requiring of him, and let him off the hook in the areas where he isn’t happy or fulfilled.


When you and your teenager are at odds, it can seem like the world is on the verge of collapse. Don’t lose heart. Implement a path to hope and you and your teen can be on the road to a good relationship again in no time.

Do you want more information about boarding school? We have 4 Reasons to Send Your Teen to a Boarding School.

Photo Credits: EaglebrookSchool, Nikoncameract

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