Helping Your Teen Make
Throughout their teenage years, your child will be confronted with many difficult situations where choosing to make a safe and healthy decision may not be the easiest – or most obvious – thing to do.
Peer pressure may factor heavily into the decision making process regarding serious issues such as drinking alcohol at parties, trying drugs, having sexual relationships, joining gangs, etc.
As a parent, being present to protect your teen from situations that could potentially hurt him or her will always be an intense urge that often cannot be realistically fulfilled.
As your child grows older, parenting becomes less about control and more about offering guidance. You can help support your teen in making responsible decisions by providing a solid foundation built upon sharing your time, experience, values, trust, and love.
- It is normal for teens to challenge their parents' values, beliefs, and practices as a way to test parents and assert their independence.
- Teens need support and guidance from their parents to make important decisions about their future.
- The more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens are likely to become.
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Tips for Parents
Whenever your teen comes to talk to you regarding a decision he or she is currently facing, make the most out of the opportunity! Your approach to any discussion has a real impact on whether or not you teen feels comfortable coming to talk to you in the future.
The tips we have provided below are designed to help you convey to your teen that you want to help, but won't try to control the situation by taking the decision out of their hands or making the decision for them.
- Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
- Ask how he or she feels about the problem.
- Ask questions that avoid "yes" or "no" responses. These questions usually begin with "how," "why," or "what."
- Really listen to what your teen is saying instead of thinking about your responses.
- Try to put yourself in your teen's shoes to understand his or her thoughts.
- Talk with your teen about choices.
- Teens sometimes believe they don't have any choice in the outcome of difficult situations. Help your teen to see alternatives that may be smarter, more responsible options.
- Define what constitutes a safe or smart choice. Help your teen understand that their health is often the most important factor involved in decision-making.
- Help your teen to identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
- How will the results affect your teen's goals? For example, how would smoking affect playing on the soccer team?
- Explain (without lecturing) the consequences of different choices.
- Allow your teen to make a decision and carry it out.
- Ask if your teen has a plan.
- Remember, your teen may make different choices than you would prefer.
- Later, ask your teen how things worked out.
- What did he or she learn from the decision?
- Allow your teen to live and learn from mistakes.
- Praise your teen when he or she makes a good choice.
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Respecting Your Teen
Teenagers with high self-esteem and self-respect are more likely to make responsible health choices. Help your teen build these characteristics by:
- Allowing him or her to voice their personal opinions
- Involving him or her in decisions that may affect the entire family
- Listening to his or her opinions and feelings
- Helping him or her set realistic goals
- Showing faith in his or her ability to reach those goals
- Giving him or her unconditional love and showing it (make your teen aware of your unconditional love for him or her)
- Being supportive, even when he or she makes mistakes
- Being open and understanding whenever your teen needs to talk to someone
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Facing Peer Pressure
How will your teen handle peer pressure to drink, smoke, have sex, or get in a fight? Talk with your teen about ways to handle risky situations to prepare him or her to make safer choices. To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.
© 2001, American Medical Association
Used by permission
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Reviewed By: Adolescent Interest Group
Last Reviewed: August 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Adolescent Health On-Line
Learning Network Parent Channel
For more information regarding your teen and healthy decision-making, you may wish to also consult:
- Your teen's health care provider
- Your teen's personal or school counselor
- Additional Resources: