From studies, we know that the common denominator among teens that do well academically and socially, stay healthy and drug-free is that they have close relationships with mom and dad. Teens need to be connected to their parents during this time of exploration, or else they will find something else to hold on to. They need their parents help to navigate barriers and discuss problems, but they also need enough space to begin making decisions for themselves.
Here are some great tools to help you create a great relationship with your teen, while encouraging independence and safety:
*A lack of sleep, the demands of school, social pressures and raging hormones are some of the things teens are dealing with. When your teen is tired and overwhelmed, proceed with caution.
*Make time to connect with your teen. Take advantage of everyday opportunities like watching TV together, driving him or her somewhere, or getting up early to bid a good day, even if it means just seeing them for a mere minute or two. Create other occasions to be together: make a date to walk by the ocean, have dinner at a restaurant, just the two of you, or venture out to see an exhibit or a show.
*Try to be pleasant. Praise your teen today as much as you did when he or she was a preschooler. If you need to criticize, focus on behavior and never call names. Also, your teen should never sense that you are speaking about him or her to your peers. Respect privacy and build trust.
*Monitor but don’t “police.” This means knowing where they are, whom they are with, what they are doing and when they will be home. It means asking questions and having your teens check in regularly. All of this should be done with a pleasant, trusting attitude and not an overly controlling one.
*When you speak to your teen, be open and honest. Talk about the mistakes you made at their age. This is an effective way to teach without lecturing. It also helps to create a more honest atmosphere.
*When setting rules, allow your teen to have a say, to a degree. Your aim is to focus on safety with an emphasis on providing guidance rather than on showing “who’s boss.” You want to teach how to make good, sound decisions themselves. But remember, teens don’t do well with “gray areas,” so be very specific about where you stand on important issues and risky behaviors
*Teens will often argue in an attempt to form an identity. They cannot develop their own minds unless they challenge the things they have been taught. However, you should still continue to convey values; just keep your messages brief. Research shows that parents who respect and don’t deny their teen’s individuality help prevent risk-taking and protect their kids against depression and other problems. So, encourage your teen to develop and express opinions and ideas. When your teen expresses a feeling, show him or her that you absorbed what was said, and engage in healthy debate.
*And last but perhaps most important, be a role model your child respects and wishes to be close to and to emulate!