Teenagers are a work-in-progress, and parenting teenagers can be tricky business. Many kids get into some kind of trouble at some point, and, although this can provide them a powerful learning opportunity, taking a "kids will be kids" attitude is downright irresponsible parenting. Good parenting requires us to remember that, even if they look fully grown, they are not. Teenager issues abound, and parents need to be aware of all we can do to keep our teenagers on the straight and narrow. Here are some tips to help you because what you do can make all the difference.
1.) The "basics" count more than anything else. Let your teen know that s/he is loved unconditionally, and s/he won't want to let you down. Not wanting to disappoint parents really is a big deterrent for teenagers.
2.) Let your teenager know what you expect of him. Be specific. Let him know where the boundaries are firm, and where there is room for negotiation. Share your values. Be clear in your communication so there is no room for confusion.
3.) Invest in your relationship. Spend time together having fun. Listen to your teen's thoughts, goals, fears and questions. Show her that you care about what she says, thinks and feels.
4.) Encourage him to develop healthy outside interests. Sports are wonderful, as is participating in music and theatre, clubs?almost any other such activity. Not only does this keep your teenager busy in a productive way, it helps to build his self-esteem. And a healthy sense of self-esteem can keep kids from getting into trouble.
5.) Help your teenager develop responsibilities. A teen with responsibilities will be more mature, more reliable, and have a higher self-esteem than one without responsibility.
6.) Look in the mirror and practice saying "no." You'll know if this applies to you; if you have trouble saying "no," practice. It is a parent's job to say it sometimes; and it may be the most important to do so when it's the hardest, so get prepared.
7.) Learn how to ask the right [sometimes hard] questions of your teen and don't be afraid to pick up the phone and [tactfully] verify what s/he's telling you. (see next item) Be plugged in to what's going on in your teen's life. Get your teen used to the fact that you know other parents, and that you will be in touch with them.
8.) Learn how to ask the right [sometimes hard] questions of your teen's friends' parents. Probe. Find out if there really is going to be supervision to your satisfaction. Not all parents are as vigilant as others. Offer to help supervise. Offer to send food. Keep it friendly, but be clear.
9.) Be smart about cell phone and internet use. Cell phones can be your friend and help you and your teen stay in touch, but they can also be abused. Teens have been known to be places other than where they say they are, and if the cell phone is the only method of contact, parents can be caught unawares. Have a good sense of what your teen is doing on the internet and consider using some of the blocking methods available.
10. Know the facts about drug and alcohol use and abuse. Your teen needs you to be knowledgeable, otherwise you are unable to help her in this area. Know what is common in your kid's school. Know what the signs are of use and abuse. Do not stick your head in the sand. Be vigilant, informed and smart.
11. Teenagers feel emotions twice as intensely as adults, and this is a developmental fact. Intense emotional responses can impact their behavior, and so parents need to encourage teens to have appropriate outlets for emotional tension. Physical activity is particularly effective.
12. Expect to give up your weekend. Not all the time?but you may not actually have the freedom that you envisioned when they were little. You need to be attentive to keep them safe, and you need to be around and available.
13. Earn your teenager's respect by your good, honorable, ethical and respectable behavior. Your teenager has been learning about adult behavior from you, and she is likely to behave like you. Better give her a great example!
Parents have tremendous influence?don't underestimate the importance of your behavior, because what you do counts ? a lot!
Copyright 2005 Sue Blaney
Sue Blaney is the author of Please Stop the Rollercoaster! How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride and Practical Tips for Parents of Young Teens; What You Can Do to Enhance Your Child's Middle School Years . She offers resources, information and tips for parents of teenagers and those who work with them. She provides an effective guide for parents and professionals who want to create a parenting discussion group. Visit http://www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com