Finding out your teenager has joined a gang can be worrying and upsetting for any parent.
It can leave you concerned they’ll end up on the wrong side of the law or in a violent situation. You may want to talk to them, but aren’t sure if you’ll be able to get through. Perhaps you’ve already tried and haven’t had much success.
Why do teenagers join gangs?
The reasons are varied but can include:
- Peer pressure from friends or schoolmates
- Wanting to gain popularity, status or respect
- Getting mixed up in drugs or criminal activities
- To escape negative situations at home
- To have a sense of belonging and feel special
- For excitement.
You can help protect your son or daughter by trying to understand issues behind why they joined a gang and getting the support you need.
What can I do as a parent?
- Try to understand. When you talk to your child, try to see things from their perspective. Coming on strong and laying down lots of rules may just push them away, so make an effort to understand why they decided to join the gang and what they’re getting out of it.
- Set a good example. Young people sometimes join gangs because they don’t have good role models at home. Teenagers may join gangs because they are looking for a set of clear, consistent rules they can understand and live by. If their home environment is chaotic or neglectful, they may seek out a group that gives them more stability. If they’ve been treated violently at home, they’re much more likely to think of violence as an acceptable answer.
- Work with your partner. You and your partner will be best able to parent your teenager effectively when you’re working together. Even if you aren’t together as a couple, it’s important the same messages are coming from both of you – and that your teenager doesn’t think they can’t get away with playing one parent against another.
- Talk to the school. Your son or daughter’s teachers can shed light on their behavior away from home and your school may be able to offer extra support if they’re already aware of gang-related activity amongst students. Ask the school to get specialist advice from those who understand the dangers of gang activities.
- Talk to other parents. Other parents can also be a really useful form of support, especially if they’re in the same situation.
Our Children and Young People’s Counselling and Family Counselling services provide a safe and confidential space where you and your teenager can talk, together or separately, about anything that’s on your minds. Call 01234 356350.