There’s a common idea among parents that teenagers who get in major trouble require tough love. Tough love often involves letting a teenager experience the hardship that results from the mistakes they’ve made. While tough love works well in certain circumstances, like a student not turning in their homework, tough love can actually hurt your family in the long-term when it comes to other situations, like when your teen winds up charged with a crime.

Whether the offense results from a physical altercation on school property or getting busted with a little bit of marijuana after a party, your teenager needs support and guidance as much as they need discipline when facing criminal charges. One of the best ways your family can help is by encouraging your teen to defend themselves, an effort which could include hiring an attorney to represent them.

The dangers of trying to let your teen sort out the issue on their own

Without good guidance and support, teenagers can wind up making major mistakes when they get involved with the criminal justice system. If they must work with a public defender, they will likely receive very little guidance, as public defenders are notoriously overworked.

They could wind up in a situation where they get pressured to take a plea bargain that drastically reduces their potential in the future. Especially when it comes to violent offenses that could result in an adult criminal record or drug offenses that will affect their educational prospects, pushing back against criminal charges may be the only way to avoid the worst consequences of a youthful arrest.

Even when a teen avoids jail, they still have that record

Many first-time offenders can potentially throw themselves on the mercy of the court and avoid incarceration if they commit to cleaning up their act. However, just staying out of jail isn’t the same as truly mitigating the consequences of your teen’s arrest. A criminal record can haunt young adults for the foreseeable future, making it harder for them to move out of the house because they can’t pass a rental background check.

A conviction could mean that your child won’t get funding for college. Even employers will likely do background checks, which means that a conviction at 16 or 17 could keep your child from earning a living wage for years afterward. Regardless of how angry or disappointed you may be in your teenager, you don’t want a single mistake early in life to affect their entire future. Supporting them during this difficult time could help turn a family hardship into an opportunity for growth.

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