Helping Your Teen Make Responsible Choices
Being at a party where alcohol and other drugs are available ... being pressured to have sex.. being pressured to join a gang... These are serious situations that teens face. As a parent, you wish you could always be there to protect your teen from situations that could hurt him or her, but it doesn't always work out that way. As your child grows older, parenting is less about control and more about offering direction. By sharing your time, experience, values, and love, you can help your teen make healthy choices.
- 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
When your teen is faced with making a decision and wants to talk to you about it, make the most out of this opportunity! If you follow the tips below, your teen will know that you want to help but you won't take control and make the decision yourself. Your approach to any discussion has a real impact on whether or not your teen will feel comfortable coming to talk to you in the future.
- Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation.
- Ask how he or she feels about the problem.
- Ask questions that avoid "yes" or "no" responses. These usually begin with "how," "why," or "what."
- Really listen to what your teen is saying, instead of thinking about your response.
- Try to put yourself in your teen's shoes to under-stand his or her thoughts.
- Teens sometimes believe they don't have choices. Help your teen to see alternatives.
- 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.
- Ask if your teen has a plan.
- Remember, your teen may make different choices than you would prefer.
- 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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Teenagers with high self-esteem and self-respect make more responsible health choices. Help your teen to build these characteristics by:
- allowing him or her to voice opinions
- allowing him or her to be involved in family decisions
- 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 unconditional love
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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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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.
Your teen's health care provider
Adolescent Health On-Line
American Academy of Pediatrics. (1991). Caring for Your Adolescent. New York, NY: Bantam Books
Eagle, Carol. (1994). All That She Can Be: Helping Your Daughter Maintain Her Self-Esteem. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY
Elkind, David Ph.D. (2001). The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon, 3rd Edition. Perseus Publishing: Cambridge, MA
Faber, Adele; Mazlish, Elaine.(1980). How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. New York, NY: Avon Books
Fenwick, Elizabeth and Tony Smith. (1998). Adolescence . Penguin Putnam Inc.: New York, NY
Glenn, H. Stephen and Jane Ed.D. Nelsen. (2000). Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People. Prima Publishing: Roseville, California.
Haffner, Debra W. (2001). Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens - From Middle School to High School and Beyond. New York, NY: New Market Press
Learning Network Parent Channel
Miron, Amy G and Charles D. Miron. (2002). How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X: A Guide for Parents. Free Spirit Publishing Inc.: Minneapolis, MN
McMahon, Tom. (1996). Teen Tips: A Practical Survival Guide for Parents With Kids 11 to 19. New York, NY: Pocket Books
National Parent Information Center
Panzarine, Susan. (2000). A Parent's Guide to the Teen Years: Raising Your 11- to 14-Year-Old in the Age of Chat Rooms and Navel Rings. New York, NY.: Checkmark Books
Pruitt, David. (2000). Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development From Early Adolescence Through the Teen Years. HarperCollins Publishers Inc.: New York, NY
Simpson, A. Rae. (2001). Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action. Boston, MASS: Center for Health Communications, Harvard School of Public Health
Steinberg, L.; Levine, A. (1997). You and Your Adolescent: A Parent's Guide for Ages 10-20. Dunmore, PA: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
Turecki, Stanley. (2000). The Difficult Child: Expanded and Revised Edition. Bantam Books: New York, NY.
Wiserman, Rosalind. (2003). Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, and Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence. Three Rivers Press: New York, NY.
Wolf, Anthony E. (1996). It's not fair, Jeremy Spencer's parents let him stay up all night!: A Guide to the Tougher Parts of Parenting . Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, NY.
Wolf, Anthony E. (2002). Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, NY