Raising children is challenging. Raising teenagers is just downright hard. Trusting them to make the right choices is one of the most difficult aspects of the whole parenting process. And just when they have started to earn your trust, inevitably, there will be a setback.
When that setback is simply staying out past curfew or skipping a class, you're disappointed. When you get a call that they've been arrested, your emotions are all over the place. You'll worry about their safety and well-being. You'll be angry and disappointed and scared and sad and you won't know what to do or where to begin. You'll feel like a failure (you aren't).
Whether they were arrested for underage drinking or shoplifting, when your child is charged with a juvenile crime, it's serious. And incredibly scary, for everyone involved. Here are three things for you to keep in mind when a child's mistake turns your world upside down.
Keep your cool.
That might seem next to impossible. But one of you has to be able to make good choices and think logically, and you can't expect it to be your teenager. As terrified as you may be, it's probably worse on them. Take some time to clear your head so that you can focus on the best way to protect your child. If you head to the police station as emotionally distressed as you may feel, you won't be able to focus on the important matters like advocating for your child when they need you most. Cool off before you head in.
Call an attorney.
You haven't been in this situation before. You're not sure what to do, and you don't know the answers to the questions. You need someone who does, which is why hiring a juvenile law attorney should be one of the first steps you take. An experienced attorney will know what to do. Teenagers make mistakes, sometimes big ones. But a mistake shouldn't cost them their future. Although you never think your kid is going to end up in an interrogation room, it's better that they know in advance that they need to ask for an attorney before they say anything. Have this conversation with your child long before it becomes necessary.
Start researching counselors or therapists. If your child was arrested for drugs or alcohol crimes, seek a treatment program. If you are proactive early on, you can show the court that you have taken steps to help your child. Most courts appreciate this, and it will be good for you child either way.
If your teen gets arrested, it will undoubtedly be a traumatic experience for you. But it's probably even more traumatic for your child. Your teen will need you on his or her side, and you need to have the strength and clarity to be there.