6 Reasons Support Groups are Awesome for Teenagers
What do you do when you realize that your teenager is struggling or in trouble?
No parent likes to see their child suffering or in pain. It is a natural response to step in and do something. You probably try to get some understanding of the problem and then look for ways to help him.
Does he need more of your time and attention? More firm parenting, structure and limits? Does he need to feel the force of natural consequences? Maybe he needs a tutor, a mentor, a therapist or maybe even a psychiatrist? It can be tough to know what will be supportive and help him overcome his particular challenges.
I would like to suggest that you consider a support group as a possibility. Here are some of the reasons that I think support groups can be especially effective and helpful for teenagers.
Why Choose a Support Group?
1. A support group can help your son realize that he is not alone in his struggles
He can hear the stories and experiences of others that may open his eyes. He is not the only one that deals with loneliness, depression, family conflict or failing grades. He can gain new perspectives in a support group, accept his challenges and begin to make changes.
2. A support group can help your son develop new skills
This might include problem-solving skills, social skills, anger management skills or general coping skills. This may depend on the particular focus of the group, whether it is specifically an anger management group, social skills group or a general support group. I hear from so many parents that they want their son to gain the skills and tools to deal with his emotions and other life circumstances. A support group may be an ideal place for this to take place.
3. A support group can give your son the benefit of group problem-solving
Often, the most helpful aspect of a support group is the ideas and suggestions that come from other members. When group members trust each other they are able to share their struggles honestly and then band together to help each other succeed. This can teach your son to solve his own problems effectively and also help him understand the benefit of asking others for help.
The truth is that teens often prefer to listen and take advice from their peers. Parents, teachers and therapists just don’t understand! In a support group, with the guidance of a professional counselor, peer support can be a powerful influence.
4. A support group can provide your son with a uniquely supportive, safe environment
Boys don’t often share their pain and struggles with their peer group. There can be a strong fear of rejection and appearing weak. In a confidential group setting, which I call the macho free zone, I let boys know that it is perfectly OK to feel their feelings. As the group leader I create and maintain the emotional safety. This allows boys to experiment with emotional risk taking and open sharing. This is something that just doesn’t exist naturally and it turns out that it is very helpful.
5. A support group can give your son the opportunity to set and work on goals
There is nothing quite like the power of accountability. A support group can give your son the opportunity to set a personal goal, such as arguing less at home or raising his math grade and also provide the incentive for him to work on it. He will know that he will have to come back to the group and report on whether or not he made progress. This can be a powerful motivator. Peer influence at its best!
6. A support group can also be very cost effective
Money is a limited resource. There is no price that you can put on having happy and healthy kids, but financial issues are very important to consider. Individual psychotherapy is quite expensive and can be tough on the family budget. A support group can often cut those costs in half. The average support group session in my area is $50 compared to the average fee for a therapist, which is around $100 per session. Quite a difference! When you consider all of these factors, a support group might be the right choice for your son.
Do you think your son might benefit from a support group?