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What to Do if You Suspect Your Teen is in a Gang

Gang related activity has been on the rise over recent years. A teen in a gang usually displays various kinds of signs. There are some actions that you can take to first determine if your teen is in a gang, and then address it before there is a chance for it to become a more serious situation.

Changes in Communication and Demeanor

Take note of things such as attitude, demeanor and changes in the way your teen communicates with you. One of the first signs of a problem can be a sense of detachment and overall change in behavior. Pay attention to changes in how your teen talks, such as incorporating new slang that you haven't heard before.

Perform a Visual Assessment

Watch for color coordinating types of clothing with colors such red, brown, green or blue. Look at hats with a specific letter on them, which would be used for a gang name designation. Shirts and pants may have specific logos or area codes on them. Review your teen's living quarters and check for color coordination.

Respect Your Teen

Rather than embarrass your teen in front of the whole family or friends, respect his privacy and have an informal meeting, preferably away from home in a safe and private place, such as a local restaurant. Show respect by refraining from getting angry. Establish that you love your teen and that it is your responsibility as the parent to know what is going on with him. Get them talking about how their life is going. Listen more than you talk. Let them know that they have a role to play as a family member. Whether it is a son or a daughter, it is important to represent the family well in society. Resolve any upsets that may have occurred prior.

Reconnect with Your Teen

If you take the time to spend more quality time with them, doing things that they are interested in, you will have a much better chance to reconnect. Go to see movies, sporting events, concerts, and engage them in museums and culture. Regularly have meetings with them informally, to find out how their day went, how school is going, and get to know their friends better. Knowing about their personal relationships is key.

Confronting Issues

Remain calm if you find evidence of misbehavior. If you find information or suspect drinking, drugs or illegal activity, you must ask you teen respectfully. Try saying "Is there something you feel that I should know?" rather than being accusatory. Be specific about the rules of the house without alienating your teen. Let them know that the behavior is not productive and will not be tolerated, either inside or outside of the home.

Disengagement from Gang Activity

If, in fact, your teen is in a gang, try to find out why they joined the gang. There are many reasons, and some may have little to do with their own desire. It could be an issue of fear. If that is the case, devise a plan and seek help from your local police station's gang unit. Become your teen's advocate, and quietly, but pro-actively, take action against gang activity in your community. Arrange a screening of the documentary film "Made in America." The film includes first-person accounts of the history or the gang culture, including startling and devastating statistics. It could be very effective in stamping out gangs in your community.

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