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Being There for Your Teens:
Some Tips for Parents

December 14, 2012  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

The teen years can be a time of change, rebellion, moodiness, and frustration. But they also can be a time of fun, growth, adventure, sharing, and learning. One of the best things you can do for your kids is simply to be there for them.

The following tips (based on information from the Rhode Island Department of Health) can help you focus on the positive and build a stronger and more enjoyable relationship with your teens:

Tell your kids that you love them and show them through your actions.

Teens need to know that you love them. Never assume that they know. Tell them often and show them by giving them space to grow, succeed, and even to make mistakes they can learn from. Even when they do things that upset you, it's still important to let them know you love them.

Give your teens the gifts of time and attention.

Be there for your teens. Take an active interest in their activities (such as sports events and school functions) and try to include them in yours. Set aside specific times for one-on-one activities and give them your undivided attention. If your teen wants to talk and you are in the middle of something, try to stop what you are doing and listen.

Want to know what your teens are doing?

Learn to listen to them. Getting your teens to talk to you can be hard. One way to get them talking is to ask questions that lead to more than a yes or no answer, and then listen when they talk. Almost every day you can find times to talk with your kids (at the dinner table, in the car), but you may also want to set aside special times for one-on-one conversations. Also listen to other people involved in your kids' lives: teachers, coaches, friends, and their friend's parents. They may tell you something about your teen that you do not know.

Set an example.

You are the greatest influence in your child's life. Be the kind of person you want your teenager to be. Talk to your teen about your beliefs, values, and expectations. Show that you are responsible for your actions and keep the promises you make to your teen. Remember, kids learn by watching.

Parenting is a tough job. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Being a parent can be hard work. Don't be afraid to admit there are things you don't know or understand. Reach out to friends, other parents, your own parents, a school guidance counselor, or your family physician.

Set rules and live by them.

Part of your role as a parent is to create a safe environment for your kids. Even though teens will not admit it, limits help make them feel safe and loved. Let your teen know what is acceptable behavior. Sit together as a family to set rules and discuss what happens if they are broken. Then work together to live by them.

Talk to your teens, even about uncomfortable things.

Talking about uncomfortable things such as feelings, relationships, sex, or drugs can be difficult. One of your jobs as a parent is to help your kids learn how to handle difficult situations. So, be ready; know the facts and what you want to say. Sometimes you won't have the answers to your teen's questions. That's okay, just be honest and then go find the answer together.

Praise your teens.

Praise your teens for the good things they do. Be specific about what you are praising them for and give your praise when they earn it. For example, instead of saying, "you're a good kid," tell your teen, "I am proud of the way you handled that situation this morning." Praising your teen helps build self-esteem and is more effective than criticism.

Help your teens set goals.

Encourage your teens to think beyond today. Get them talking about the future goals (both short-term and long-term), what they want for themselves, and what it will take to achieve their plans. Show your teens that you support their goals by being there to help guide their decisions.

You're the parent, they're the teens.

Raising kids is not easy. There will be times when you will have to make difficult decisions. Decisions your teen may not like. But remember, you are the adult and you are in charge! Your children need your help and guidance in handling the challenges they face.

Adolescence is not always a time of significant turmoil. Most teens make it through adolescence without any major problems. And, in a nationwide poll of more than 1,000 thirteen-to-seventeen-year-olds, more than 90 percent claimed to get along with their parents "very well" or "fairly well."  

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Two of our highly recommended health-related websites have excellent articles about parenting teens:
A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Parenting Skills: Tips for Raising Teens

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