Support for the Teen Years - A Reminder for Parents
- Prevention & Early Intervention
This article is written by parents who are in your shoes – walking the sometimes rocky road of parenting teens while trying to keep their families, sense of humor and sanity intact! They share with you their joys, struggles, fears and their hopes. Here's what they had to "SAY"!
Remember, time with our teens is very short. Spend as much time with them as you can now because it is over in the blink of an eye. Finding the time to be together as families is so important in keeping families connected. I try to spend some time at home on Friday or Saturday nights and insist on family dinners a certain number of times a week.
Teens are toddlers only bigger. They are reaching for independence but are not always able to assess the risks. Sometimes we parents feel like we do (almost) everything right and our kids are still exploring risky behavior. Now what? Don't give up. Keep talking. Keep track. Let them know you know what's going on. Parents should not be afraid to talk with or confront their teens. Be suspicious and vigilant.
Set standards with expectations but remain open with them so they will share their realities with you. For example, they may tell you that they don't drink but that alcohol was served at a party. Don't "freak out" or they may not share with you any more. Treat them fairly, not lecturing or talking down to them. You have to be a parent and set rules, but try not to be reactive. Stay centered and come from your own set of values and your kids will respond likewise.
My concern is that so many parents are trying to be their teen's friend and not their parent. I know I'm not the only parent or household that has rules, curfews, etc., but sometimes it feels that way. The ongoing conversation in our house is that "So and so's parents let him go, let him do it, etc." My husband and I both have a saying and we use it often: "This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship. We make the rules to keep you safe, not to be the most popular parents on the East Side."
We constantly have open conversations about drinking, drugs, sex, the Internet, etc. And so far, the lines of communication seem to be open and working. We seem to know a lot of what's going on with our kids.
As a mother of four adolescent sons and a registered nurse, I have many reasons to be involved as an advocate for teens. My belief is that an adolescent's job is to test every limit, boundary, and rule – that is how they learn and make their way in the world. For many years I worked with pregnant and teens who were parents and heard repeatedly from the teens that they had unprotected sex because, "I thought he/she really loved me when no one else did." Discipline, rule enforcing, asking questions is a form of love and parents need to show their love.
Keeping Them Safe
If you are going out of town for a few days, don't leave your teens home alone. While your teens may be very trustworthy, some of their friends may not be, and before your teens know what happened, there may be a big party at your house.
Don't think having your child stay at a friend's house necessarily means that everything will be okay at your home. Your child and his or her friend will know your house is empty and all they need to do to have an unauthorized party is tell the friend's parents that they are going to someone else's house, when actually they are going to your house to host an un-chaperoned party. Make sure your neighbors are aware that you will be away and your child (ren) are staying with friends and should not be hanging around your house.
When your teen asks if he or she can sleep over at a friend's house, call and confirm with the friend's parents. Sometimes teens will ask their parents if they can go to a friend's house, of whose family you know and trust very well, when actually they plan to go to a different friend's house, a friend you don't approve. If you don't check, your teen may not be at the house you think.
Keeping Aware of Risks
The T-shirts that are selling in the stores are appalling. My 12-year-old daughter thinks it's okay to wear them because the store is selling them. I tell her she's not allowed to wear them, but what happens when her best friend comes to school wearing one the next day? I always tell my kids, please don't listen and do what everybody else is doing.
I have a concern with Internet sites such as myspace.com. I know kids that are posting pictures of themselves. They see so much of this on Internet sites, it is becoming a norm, and some kids are not seeing this as risky behavior.
As a mother of four daughters I talk to my girls constantly about pre-marital sex and the dangers involved with this behavior. I tell them that they have a lot to lose if they choose to partake and I stress that they need to protect themselves.
Life is stressful for teens – alcohol seems like a great escape. We must understand the seriousness of alcohol and send consistent messages to teens regarding no alcohol or drug use.
Keeping the Consequences
Protecting your kids from natural consequences of risky behavior is a great disservice. Let them take the wrath of school/peer/city punishment. It could be the best thing for them. I have found that it is so difficult to hold strong to my convictions. Teenagers are very good at making you feel like you're being unreasonable, but after years of butting heads with my daughter, she has observed the road taken by some of her friends who did not have the same parental supervision and actually thanked me for caring and for being a "responsible" parent.
Volunteering Is a Protective Factor for Teens.
Encourage your teens to earn community service hours at local agencies such as:
- Achievement Centers for Children: 216- 292-9700
- Cleveland Food Bank: 216-619-0192
- Cleveland Metroparks: 216-635-3258
- Fairmount Temple Preschool: 216-464-1752
- Gathering Place: 216-595- 9546
- Habitat for Humanity: 216-429-1299
- Menorah Park: 216- 831-6500
- MetroHealth Hospital: 216- 778-4471
- Sight Center: 216-791-8118
Written collaboratively by the parents in the SAY Parent Committee.
Copyright © Bellefaire JCB