It’s heartbreaking when your son or daughter gets in legal trouble. As a parent, you have done your best, but children often make bad decisions that are far beyond your control. You love your child and want the best for him or her, but some choose on their own to go down a dark and negative path.
If your son or daughter has been labeled a juvenile delinquent, you may be beginning to lose hope. Your child likely is, too; words used to describe an individual can have deep meaning and can influence who that person becomes in the future.
Don’t give up. There are a number of things that you can do to help your son or daughter, and that can help him or her to move forward in life, to move beyond past missteps, and to become a law-abiding, successful and productive adult.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you are already somewhat familiar with the juvenile court system. When someone under the age of eighteen breaks a law, he or she is tried, convicted and punished by a court specifically for their age group. In some states and for some offenses, someone under eighteen may be tried as an adult.
Juveniles who face court can be tried for criminal acts, but in juvenile courts, the proceedings are civil rather than criminal. The offender is charged with a delinquent act rather than a criminal offense.
A small percentage of cases in juvenile court are the result of status offenses rather than crimes. Status offenses are offenses that apply only to individuals below a certain age, such as truancy, possession of tobacco or alcohol or curfew violations.
Fortunately, in either situation, most juvenile delinquent conviction records are sealed or expunged when the child reaches adulthood, as long as the individual has met certain conditions. Since over 2.1 million juveniles are arrested in the United States each year, this is a good thing; it gives many a chance to turn their lives around and can offer them hope for a better future.
Helping Your Juvenile Delinquent Child
There are a number of things you can do to help your child when he or she is arrested, and there are many things you can do to keep an arrest from happening again.
Know That Everyone Makes Mistakes
Children and teens are growing and learning. Although your first reaction to an arrest may be anger, consider your overall feelings before reacting. Understand that everyone makes missteps in life, and your son or daughter is no exception to that rule.
Find the Root of the Problem
There are many risk factors that can lead to delinquent acts. Individual issues such as depression or anxiety can be one cause. Family issues can be another. Peer groups can be a major influence on a child’s decision-making.
Determine what lead to the offense, and work to fix it. Consider seeking counseling such as MRT counseling. MRT counseling, or Moral Reconation Therapy, is designed specifically to help juvenile and adult criminal offenders to determine the reasons they committed crimes and the ways they can work towards not doing so again in the future.
Seek Legal Counsel
If your child is accused of a crime or a status offense, you will need to obtain an attorney to help guide you both through the legal process. Unfortunately, although juveniles have a constitutional right to legal counsel, just like adults do, in most states, families must eventually pay for even court-appointed attorneys, even if they cannot really afford to do so.
It’s crucial that parents make rules and stick to them, and that when they break rules, there are consequences. Setting curfews and requiring that they complete chores before fun activities begin will help to prepare your son or daughter for adulthood. Further, it will help him or her to understand that everyone of all ages has responsibilities and must follow rules.
Encourage Involvement in Activities
The best way to stay out of trouble is to get deeply involved in something positive. Sports, lessons, hobbies, volunteering, and activism are all good things that can help to teach your child skills and values that he or she will use for the rest of his or her life.
Be a Support System
Most of all, be there for your child. Have an open-door policy and encourage honesty and openness on both sides. Make your home a safe and happy place, and instill the value of family relationships. This type of support can go a long way.
Good Luck and Stay Positive
If your son or daughter is a juvenile delinquent, don’t lose hope. There is still time to turn things around and to ensure a happy, healthy, trouble-free future for him or her. Many children and teens can and do bounce back from a youth of legal trouble and go on to be successful adults. Yours can too.
If you want to read more about the legal system in our country, or are searching for a lawyer for your child or any other reason, please check out the rest of our site.