- Prevention & Early Intervention
Come Here. Go Away. Staying Connected with Your Teen
Research has increasingly indicated what many parents have hoped to be true. Despite the importance of peers during the teen years, parents have a crucial influence on their adolescent's healthy and risky choices. One of the most significant findings of the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health is that teenagers who reported feeling close to their families were the least likely to engage in any of the risky behaviors studied. This included smoking cigarettes, marijuana, drinking or having sex. The study showed that you need to give your kids the message that when they need to talk to you, you're available, even if it's by phone!
Ironically, adolescence can be one of the most difficult times to talk to, be with, and support our children. Even though our teens need us almost as much as when they were little, they often push us away. Being human, our natural response might be to withdraw. However, having taken on the heroic job of parenting, we are not ones to give up!
This articles offers ways to communicate and have fun with your teens and gain support from other parents who are in the same, sometimes shaky boat. Onward courageous ones!
Deal With Their Feelings
- Respond with empathy, “Oh, I see.”
- Identify the feeling.
- Eliminate adding “but.”
- Avoid immediate questions and advice
- Help them help themselves.
- Help them see shades of gray and eliminate awfulizing – making something worse than it is; generalizing – using words like never, always, everyone, no-one; and crystal-balling – being certain of what will happen in the future.
- Model behaviors you’d like to see.
- Describe problems with “I” messages – “When you…I feel…I’d like…”
- Offer choices.
Alternatives to Punishment
- Express anger without attacking character.
- Share your feelings and expectations.
- Let your child experience the consequences of his/her behavior, even when it is difficult.
New Ways to Praise
- Describe what you see and feel and the effort versus the end result.
- Put your child in situations where they can see themselves as mature such as community service.
- Let your child overhear you saying something positive about him/her, even when you have to search to find it.
Have Fun Together
- Play Games – Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Scrabble, cards, Cranium
- Play in the Sun – Swim, camp, hike, roller blade, golf
- Play Sports – Shoot hoops, play pool, ping-pong, go bowling
- Get Inspired – Paint, cook, bake, volunteer
Parent to Parent
Parents on the SAY Parent committee shared their ways of staying informed and connected with their teens:
“It’s always informative to drive the carpool. What you learn in the driver’s seat is a great springboard for talk with your teen.”
- “Volunteering together for a civic or social service organization is a great experience. You and your teen are both in a neutral setting and it offers much to discuss from a different perspective.”
- “We talk a lot about what’s happening and going on. I bring home topics or issues… I ask a lot of “What do you think? What would you do this in this situation?”
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