Parent/Teen/Family Therapy

Is Your Teen’s ‘Attitude’ Driving You Crazy?

Have They Become Disrespectful, Defiant, Sullen, or Silent?


We can help you re-connect and create greater peace in your relationship.

Perhaps your teenager is:

  • Uncommunicative and disrespectful
  • Defiant, argumentative and rude
  • Struggling to fit in with peers
  • Highly anxious
  • Extremely embarrassed to be seen near you
  • Angry about your divorce
  • Hanging with a whole new group of friends that you have never met
  • Sullen, silent, spending hours alone in their room
  • Has gone from a good or very good student to just getting by
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Unhappy with the step-family arrangements

If your teen is showing any of the above behaviours, chances are your family life is no longer that calm happy place it once was. You likely no longer have the control and respect you once had. Doing activities together as a family has become more stressful and not enjoyable. Perhaps you are feeling frustrated and even helpless.

If you are the parent (or step-parent) of a teenager described above then you may be:

  • losing your temper, perhaps yelling or saying things you later regret;
  • finding that removing privileges and punishments are ineffective;
  • confused and frustrated and feeling alone;
  • guilty about not feeling like you are being a good parent;
  • upset that all your efforts at staying positive, providing encouragement are falling on deaf ears;
  • worried that you have lost all control over your teen;
  • concerned about the choice of your teen’s friends;
  • upset about finding drugs and drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room and not sure what to do;
  • blaming your teen’s problems on yourself, your partner, or your ex for your failed marriage.

You are not alone.

Counselling for your teen and for you as a parent or step-parent, can improve your relationship with your teen and strengthen the entire family.

  • Adolescence is one of the most challenging periods for parents because so much is in flux. Growth spurts and the changes brought on by puberty are the most obvious changes as your child becomes a teenager. But the adolescent brain is still undergoing an astounding amount of growth. Some days your teen shows remarkable insight and intellectual logic in a discussion and then the next they are making the most foolish  decision. Parent and Teen counselling or family therapy can help take the pressure off you and your teen and get your family back on track.

This is a demanding time to be a parent of teenagers.

Many educators report that never before in history has there been so much information going to our children unfiltered by adults. This is the result of more technological innovations that have changed how we work, live and learn. What it means for teenagers is that they have more choices to contend with – more opportunity to go astray. Meanwhile, parents are in more serious competition for their children’s attention, when trying to teach them those lessons they value. Maintaining effective communication with your teenager during these challenging times has never been more important — or more difficult.

If you are a separated or divorced parent there are many added complications.

When your teenagers have two families to be part of their are lots of added stresses for everyone. There is stress on the parents to be civil and respectful with each other for the kids sake despite anger and bitterness beneath the surface. There is stress on the teenager and siblings to grieve the loss of the family as they knew it. The adjustment period  varies depending on the child’s age, the degree of distress experienced by them at the point of separation and the security of the relationship before the separation. The adjustment also depends on the capacity of the separated parents to put their children’s needs above their own and comfort and support them emotionally. This period requires grieving what has been lost, the family as it was. Grieving is needed in order to accept what is new. This process can last anywhere from a year or two to many years. Some teens’ grieving is prolonged by acrimonious and hostile parents.

The acceptance of mother or father’s new partner will be more difficult or maybe impossible without an adequate period of adjustment where feelings can be expressed. If a teenager of separated or divorced parents is not ready to accept them dating, this can be very upsetting for all. This refusal to accept can show up as uncharacteristic rudeness or stubbornness. It puts everyone in loyalty binds.The teenager may be wondering who matters more – your children or your new partner? In other words, it heightens feelings of abandonment for teens. It can also be a shock to parents who hoped that their children would just want them to be happy that their new partner makes them happy.

So why do perfectly normal, usually responsible, teens act at times like little kids? Why do they lose their good judgement?

photo-family-2A flurry of research of the brain over the last decade provides many of the answers. While a teenager may resemble an adult on the outside, a peek inside his/her brain tells a very different story.

The cerebral cortex is still growing and undergoing massive change. Neurotransmitters radically transform in number and type, creating a desire for risk taking. New connections are being forged to areas of the brain responsible for higher conceptual thinking. The prefrontal cortex, the seat of higher judgement, wisdom and forethought, is the very last area of the brain to develop. So, while teenagers want adult freedoms and privileges, their neurological and psychological development is not complete. They are not fully prepared for adult judgement,  while at the same time the influence of peers has a huge pull.

Teenagers Need Parents to Help Them Set Limits and Make Good Judgements While Encouraging their Creativity and Adventurous Spirit.

Risk taking and thrill seeking are not always destructive. They also have the positive function of helping teens explore the world, cultivate interests and eventually leave home. Teens need parents, teachers and adults to help them manage their lives while the brain matures. As parents, we need to act as their prefrontal cortex at times.

Therapy or Counselling can help you re-connect with your teenager and provide appropriate limits.

Adolescence is the bridge from childhood to adulthood. It can present many faces. The most talked-about faces include: intense moods that come and go at lightning speed. As parents you are seen as not knowing anything. Often you are cast in the role of the enemy – the one who tries to restrict freedoms or prevent them from having fun. Teenagers can become ungrateful and unreasonable. They may withhold information about themselves, their friends and activities.

It is Extremely Difficult Not to Take Your Teenager’s Comments and Behaviour Personally

The dramatic changes in your child do not automatically indicate that you are a failure as a parent. Nor does it indicate their imminent doom. It’s a matter of persistence and degree. Many teenagers can also go through this stage quietly, or industriously, and either more distanced or closer to their parents. There are many roads towards independence.

As Family Therapists for parents and teens, we know how to help you create stability for your teen and family.

It is family stability that provides a secure base from which your teenager can venture into the world. No matter which face your teenager wears, they all have in common an enormous underlying anxiety (about their changing bodies, fitting in, achieving, etc). Through parent and teen counselling, we can help save you and your family from even more turmoil.

Successful Parenting is about helping develop in our children a sense of self and a sense of belonging.

“We came to so see Allan because we had a situation with our 17 year old son. He was becoming more and more difficult to reason with, and was not taking any responsibility for himself. Our collective tempers were rising to the point where matters were becoming almost physical. As his father, I was so angry with him that I was ready to throw him out of the house.

Personally, I had reached a point where I did not know what to do. In counselling we learned better ways of negotiating and how to reach consensus. The process helped us do something different than what we were doing on our own. It allowed me to stop, back up and deal with the situation in a very different way. It reminded me of the things I normally did with all my children, but had stopped doing because my son had become so unbelievably belligerent, which led to my growing anger. I felt that he just did not have the right to do what he was doing in our home. The counselling re-framed things for me so I could look at the situation differently. It calmed me down.

A key benefit of the counselling is that we now have a calmer, more respectful family. Allan, as a mediator with the tools to keep things calm, allowed all of us to say and hear what we needed to, from each other. Having finished counselling, we hope that we can NOW proceed with the same process without the need of a mediator. We can now live by a code of fairness. We have the skills to resolve matters without Allan. Since every person shared the counselling experience together, we can help one another if one of us starts to fail.

Allan kept his cool. When calm heads prevail, we’re all encouraged to do the same. When we took the step to go to a counsellor, we were admitting there was a serious problem and acknowledged that we had to do something about it. If we had proceeded on our own, without help, our son could well have been out of the house, and my wife extremely upset with me.

Allan connected with our son. He was firm with each of us so we were clear we could not get away with anything. But the process felt very fair. Allan knows when to speak and when to let things go. He intervenes when things are counterproductive. He is a good listener.

Measuring how I feel about my relationship with my son now, I have to say that I am much more comfortable. I see real change in him and I’m sure he would say the same about me.

I appreciated that Allan spoke up and ended our sessions when the counselling was complete. As a businessman, I know how some situations can be milked. While tentative at first, I came to trust the process. Allan maintains a professional distance while at the same time, shows you that he cares. You don’t need a therapist to be your friend, but you do need someone who is dispassionate. Allan was all of that. We have referred our friends to Allan.” *

The Benefits of Parent and Teen Counselling:

  • discover effective parenting styles that are proven to work with teens and why old parenting styles won’t work with teens anymore;
  • identify which of your buttons your teen pushes and how to get them to stop;
  • decide which battles to persist with and which to let go of;
  • prevent your teen from playing one parent against the other;
  • strengthen your parenting partnership while maintaining your own individual parenting style;
  • know how to avoid and diffuse the landmines in your family;
  • rebuild trust and mutual respect with your teen and within the whole family;
  • discover ways to enjoy your teenager’s company again;
  • feel closer to your teen than you have felt in a long while.

A Success Story

Jennifer, a 14 year-old girl, met a 19 year-old boy at a downtown club. They liked the same music and began hanging out together. She knew her parents would not approve, so kept the relationship a secret. When her mother was tidying her extremely messy room, she came upon Jennifer’s open diary and read about the romance, her drug use, and desire to have sex and lose her virginity with someone who was not a “little boy” like those her own age.

When mom told dad about what she had discovered, he was enraged. They both confronted Jennifer and forbade her from ever seeing the boy again. Jennifer was extremely angry. She yelled at her mother for snooping in her private belongings. She screamed at them both that she was not a little girl and would find somewhere to live rather than stay with them and their ridiculously childish rules.

The family came to see me together with the 16 year-old sister who had convinced Jennifer to give counselling a try. During the therapy sessions, everyone had a chance to express their point of view about what was wrong in the family and what they wanted counselling to accomplish. Mom wanted to connect with Jennifer, dad wanted to work as a parenting team, sister wanted a calm family and Jennifer wanted out of the family – but was willing to wait and see.

Regular family therapy sessions included both parents alone and the teens on their own, but mostly the four of them together. Through counselling, we helped the family members engage in conversations with care, respect and civility. The parents learned how to pick their words more carefully but still say what they wanted. The girls also trusted the counselling sessions as a place where they could speak their minds. Without the safety we created for them in the session, the conversations would have turned into nasty yelling and hurling insults as they had done at home. Gradually, the tensions at home diminished as each one of the family members began to see their own part in creating the tension, and how to reduce it.

The parents met Jennifer’s 19 year- old boyfriend, which was awkward,  but not as bad as they all expected. Her parents endured several wakeful nights, a few broken curfews and one time when Jennifer snuck out her bedroom window. Eventually, Jennifer and the 19 year-old boyfriend discovered that they were not that well suited.

Over the six months of counselling, Jennifer and her mother’s relationship improved to the point that Jennifer was confiding in her mother about her feelings on many issues in her life. Jennifer’s parents were much more relaxed about challenges that Jennifer presented them with, and felt stronger as parenting partners and also as a couple. The sister was happy that home was an enjoyable place to be again. Jennifer was content living at home, learned how to negotiate with her parents and have her requests considered.

You don’t have to struggle in your relationship with your teenager any longer. Through family therapy, we can help improve your relationship with your teen.

What You Can Expect From Family Therapy and Parent Counselling

Most parents initiate family counselling when the problems have escalated to an unbearable point and they feel powerless to solve the problems with their teenagers. Often issues have been developing for years without any success at resolution. Some family members are more eager to get help than others. Most teenagers come to counselling reluctantly.

Family Therapy with adolescents provides a respectful forum for expressing feelings, repairing misunderstandings and learning to negotiate agreements. Regular weekly appointments are often necessary at the outset to help you and your teen make immediate changes, prevent deterioration and generate hope.

 Still have some questions? Call 416 489-5053


         Book your FREE 15-minute telephone consultation.

  1. When you book your phone consultation you receive a call so we can learn a little bit about your situation so we know how we can help. We can figure out who should attend and what to expect.
  2. First Three Family Therapy Sessions.
    We prefer to see as parents and teen for the first family therapy session which is 90 minutes long.It is best to try to meet with both parents and the teen you are concerned about. For separated/divorced parents living in separate homes, we figure out which is the best way to proceed. It is very important to inform your teen that you are going to attend family counselling. Keeping our meeting secret and telling them at the last minute will likely lead to upset and reduce the likelihood that they will attend willingly.Sometimes you may have to come without the teeb because they refuse. Sometimes, we will see parents alone and we talk about how to encourage your teen to come the next time.

    During the first 90-minute family therapy session, we will learn about concerns that each of you have about your family relationships. Each will be able to speak freely and we do all we can to make it as comfortable as possible. We will also ask you each to tell us what you hope to accomplish by coming to family counselling. It is common to see parents alone and the teenager alone for the second session. This allows each to speak freely about concerns they worry will hurt or upset the other if said in front of them, yet is important for us to know, in order to understand what is going on in the family. The third session is usually all together again to talk about the focus going forward. Often the strained relationship is the focus of the two-person sessions. The goals you want to accomplish shape the course of therapy.

  3. Subsequent Regular Family Therapy Sessions.
    All subsequent sessions are 60 minutes long. We usually see you together and may at times see sub-groups, like the parents together or siblings together or one parent and child etc., depending on the goals we working on.
  4. Follow-up Family Therapy Sessions.
    We are committed to helping families make lasting change. When you have accomplished your goals and end regular family therapy sessions, a follow-up session can be held between 3 to 6 months afterwards.

If you think you could benefit from family therapy, please book your  free                15- minute phone consultation or for more information call 416 489-5053.



*All anonymous endorsements on this website were given voluntarily by clients after the completion of their counselling and in keeping with principles of the Code of Ethics and Standards of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

New Insights Counselling provides parent counselling, teen counselling, family therapy and marriage counselling in midtown Toronto at Yonge and Eglinton serving North York, Etobicoke, East York, and Scarborough and in the Newmarket area including Aurora, Bradford, Holland Landing King City, Stouffville, Uxbridge, Markham and Richmond Hill, Ontario.