Helping Teens Make Responsible Choices
Being at a party where alcohol and other drugs are available ... being pressured to have sex.. being pressured to join a gang... These are serious situations that teens face. As a parent, you wish you could always be there to protect your teen from situations that could hurt him or her, but it doesn't always work out that way. As your child grows older, parenting is less about control and more about offering direction. By sharing your time, experience, values, and love, you can help your teen make healthy choices.
- It is normal for teens to challenge their parents' values, beliefs, and practices as a way to test parents and assert their independence.
- Teens need support and guidance from their parents to make important decisions about their future.
- The more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens are likely to become.
Tips for Parents
When your teen is faced with making a decision and wants to talk to you about it, make the most out of this opportunity! If you follow the tips below, your teen will know that you want to help but you won't take control and make the decision yourself. Your approach to any discussion has a real impact on whether or not your teen will feel comfortable coming to talk to you in the future.
- Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation.
- Ask how he or she feels about the problem.
- Ask questions that avoid "yes" or "no" responses. These usually begin with "how," "why," or "what."
- Really listen to what your teen is saying, instead of thinking about your response.
- Try to put yourself in your teen's shoes to under-stand his or her thoughts.
- Talk with your teen about choices.
- Teens sometimes believe they don't have choices. Help your teen to see alternatives.
- Help your teen to identify and compare the possible consequences of all the choices.
- How will the results affect your teen's goals? For example, how would smoking affect playing on the soccer team?
- Explain (without lecturing) the consequences of different choices.
- Allow your teen to make a decision and carry it out.
- Ask if your teen has a plan.
- Remember, your teen may make different choices than you would prefer.
- Later, ask your teen how things worked out.
- What did he or she learn from the decision?
- Allow your teen to live and learn from mistakes.
- Praise your teen when he or she makes a good choice.
Facing peer pressure
How will your teen handle peer pressure to drink, smoke, have sex, or get in a fight? Talk with your teen about ways to handle risky situations to prepare him or her to make safer choices. To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.
Reprinted with the permission of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. 2008 Palo Alto Medical Foundation. All rights reserved.
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