Parenting teens is rocket science. Or so it would seem...
For many parents, it is a mystery that refuses to be solved. I often work with parents who excel with young children, but who become bewildered when their children move into adolescence.
Never is raising a teenager more trying than when it comes to preparing the teenager to face the problems caused by illicit drugs. But a simple, often over-looked technique, can work wonders. It's all about relationships!
Teenagers obey their parents because they feel a strong bond with them, not because they are forced. A good relationship with the parent motivates them to behave.
And to listen!
This is one area where parenting a young child is different from parenting a teen. The relationship is of paramount importance – a good relationship and good communication. Often the solution to adolescent behavior problems lies in improving your relationship with him or her. When they have a good relationship with you, the parent, they want to please you, and they'll listen when you talk with them. In a poor relationships, they teen may feel disconnected and is less likely to listen or try to work with you.
Talk honestly and supportively about anything and everything. If your child comes to you and wants to talk, be sure you stop and listen! If you criticize or point our failures and mistakes, over-react or speak angrily to your teen, your teen will stop sharing important things with you.
Many kids feel they can't get their parents to listen or understand what they are going through. They may feel they can't get a parent's attention, but you may not realize it.
If they're afraid to confide in you, they won't.
If your son or daughter tries to get your attention a few times, but you are too preoccupied with other things to really listen, they will stop trying or try to get your attention in an undesirable way. Whatever works! Discouragement may cause them to become distant, and they will be less interested in what you have to say . . . or they may give up trying to communicate with you at all. And, out of their frustration, they may reject the family, or cut themselves off emotionally.
Talk to them frankly about club drugs and help them to think critically about the risks and dangers associated with drug use. Avoid lecturing or preaching about those dangers, which often causes older kids to cringe! And may lead to rebellion. Remember, you're talking with a child who is now almost an adult. That's why parenting teens is so hard.
Talk with them often about drugs and alcohol and other important issues that affect your teen's health and safety.
Encourage them to get accurate information. Help them get the facts. Encourage them to think decisions through and weigh the consequences. Let them know how you feel about it, and what you have learned about the subject. Give them the benefit of your wisdom, but don't hit them over the head with it. Avoid lecturing or saying things that will cause them to turn you off!
Attend any activities or events in which your teenager participates. Show you care by showing up at their sporting or musical event.
Celebrate their successes and provide more positive reinforcement than you think necessary. Build their self-esteem. Show your abiding love and encouragement every single day. If you'd like more help with parenting, consider joining our e-Zine, Relationships Matter!, and you'll get future articles and tips that can assist you in doing a good job as a parent and in becoming a better spouse or relationship partner.
Keep in mind, if your adolescent doubts that you care, they'll disconnect and feel resentment that can fuel drug or alcohol abuse, or other acting out behavior. One of my teenage clients confessed to me he knew his father didn't care about him because he never took time off from work to come to his ball games and he never called on is birthday. The poor kid was broken hearted. And the way he responded to his hurt and disappointment was to get angry and do foolish things, perhaps to get the attention he craved.
Teach them to know what they are putting in their bodies (food and otherwise) and what can go wrong when they take a dangerous substance. Help them to understand the actual processes that occur inside their bodies when a toxic substance is ingested. You may have to do a little research yourself.
The more clearly and fully your adolescent understands what drugs can do to his or her body and mind, the less likely he/she will fall prey to myths and misconceptions about drugs. Parenting teens involves honest, direct communication. And not backing away from tough issues.
Help kids learn how to have fun without using drugs or drinking alcohol.
Set a good example. Show your kids how to have fun. And keep having healthy fun with them as they age. Be sure they enjoy the activities you choose together, and let them choose many of them.
If you or your spouse have a drug or alcohol problem, get help for it.
Supervise any get-togethers they may have for their friends. Remember, stay involved but give them a fair amount of space. Let them have some authority over their own lives. When you work at parenting teens they know you care.
Don't rescue them. They can't learn from their mistakes if someone is always saving them from their problems!
For example, a friend of mine let his teenager take his sports car on a date. When the kid wrecked the car, my friend made him save the money to pay for the damages. It taught the teenage boy a big lesson. Interestingly enough, that boy is now an adult, and he says that was the biggest, most important lesson of his young life!
Get people involved who can have a positive impact on your child's development. And keep your child involved in as many positive relationships with the extended family as possible. Urge reluctant family members to get involved and make a difference in your kid's life.
If your child needs professional help, such as counseling, mentoring or coaching, get it for him/her, the sooner the better. My clients often tell me that just having a objective third party in the room makes it easier to talk to their teenagers. Parenting teens means doing what's best for their health, well being and welfare.
Know what kinds of drugs the kids in your child's school are abusing. Don't be ignorant on the subject. Get involved in any local programs or support groups your community offers.
Helping reduce the dangers of adolescence is not easy. But, chances are, you can do quite well if you take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about the problems of drugs and alcohol. Talk to your kids about the dangers and the facts. Parenting teens is all about communication, and lots of it. Honest and direct communication.
You'll be better prepared to help your children avoid the risks of abusing drugs, and your teenager will be better prepared to make smart decisions, when the chips are down.