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GET EDUCATED

Staying Connected to Your Teen: Part I

January 31, 2014  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari 

This article is the first in a series that will provide information about teen-parent communication and discuss some of the myths concerning how teens feel about parental involvement in their lives. Part II will present data from the most recent survey conducted in the Falmouth Public Schools. You may be surprised what our teens are telling us!

As a parent you are the most important influence in the lives of your kids, whether your child is a toddler, a tween, or a teen. And, your influence does not stop when they go off to college or work after high school. Being a good role model can have an impact on your adult children and grandchildren. Good parenting skills do “rub off.”

There are many myths about teens that are not supported by the facts. In spite of the persistent myth that adolescence is a time of turbulence and troubles, most teenagers do not have a bad relationship with their parents and do not abuse drugs and alcohol.

Starting about age 12 years your kids will slowly disengage from the family and spend more time interacting with their peers. This is appropriate and normal behavior. If you keep lines of communication open and spend time with your teen, you are more likely to raise a well-adjusted adult who is competent, caring, and independent.

What Teens Want from Their Parents

The following tips on how to stay connected with your teenager is from the Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada and based on information from the New York Times News Service. As a pediatrician, parent, and grandparent, I can’t think of better advice!

Communicate. Avoid both lecturing and interrogating. Permit yourself to suspend judgments and try to understand a world that is so very different than what you experienced. Your teen also is really interested in your lives, so be prepared to talk about work and personal things that are important to you.

Have a teen-friendly house. Be nice to your teen’s friends when they come over. Don’t intrude in their activities, but introduce yourself, ask questions and be certain to have lots of food in the refrigerator.

Stay involved in school activities. Volunteer at school, and be certain to attend your teen’s sporting or other events. Don’t complain about the length of a football or hockey match. In a few years, you’ll miss those games.

Maintain family traditions, but make adjustments. Rituals are the emotional glue that connect us. Don’t give up on those habits, but be flexible in adjusting them to your adolescent’s interests. Let your teen bring a friend along during the family vacation. Eat meals together. Visit relatives often.

Search for shared interests. Look for opportunities to do things together, such as shopping, attending sporting events, travel, movies, or attending a car show. While family time is important, it is also absolutely critical for a teen to have alone time with each of her parents.

Encourage your child’s passions. Each of your children may develop interests that are very different than your own. This is a sign that maybe you did something right in encouraging their individuality.

Lighten up. This is most important during the adolescent years. Develop a good sense of humor. Don’t take everything so seriously. In a few years, your young adult will no longer be with you. Enjoy today.

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