My teenager has joined a gang

Finding out your teenager has joined a gang is extremely 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 teens join gangs?

The reasons teens join gangs are varied, but they can include:

  • Peer pressure from their 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

What can I do as a parent?

You can help protect your son or daughter by trying to understand issues behind their joining a gang and getting the support you need.

  • Try to understand. When you talk to your child, try to see things from their perspective. Coming on really 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 often 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. And if communication at home isn’t good or you often find yourselves arguing a lot, Family Counselling can help you talk things over in a safe and supportive environment
  • Work with your partner. You and your partner will be best able to parent your teen 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 teen doesn’t think they can’t get away with playing one parent against another. Talk things through to make sure you’re on the same page. You may find Relationship Counselling a useful way of making agreements with your ex-partner
  • Talk to their 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 and talks 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.
  • Get further support. The NSPCC has a gangs helpline and information on their website. You may like to show your son or daughter the Childline website, which has a section on gangs addressed towards young people. And if you’re really concerned, you can call your local police service on 101 for advice.

How we can help

  • Young People’s Counselling provides a safe space where you teen can talk about anything that’s on their mind.
  • Phone Relate Milton Keynes 01908 310010 or email to book an appointment

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