Youth Focus

Youth Focus
Parents of teens need to hear positive, concrete ways to be a parent. They also need support. The five parent messages below give parents some things to do as well as reinforce the fact that parents still matter in a teen's life.

Parent message number one: Love and connect – most things about a teen's world are changing. Don't let your love be one of them. Teens need parents to develop and maintain a relationship with them that offers support and acceptance. The relationship needs to change as the teen gradually matures. To keep the relationship going:

  • Watch for moments when you can show affection, respect and appreciation for your teen.

  • Don't be surprised if your teen is critical. They are testing out opinions and ideas.
  • Spend plenty of time just listening.
  • Treat each teen as a unique individual.
  • Pay attention to your teen's new interests and abilities.
  • Continue to have your teen contribute to what goes on in the home.
  • Spend time together.
  • Be open to learning from your teen.

    Parent message number two: Monitor and observe – monitor your teen's activities. You still can and it still counts. Teens need parents to be aware of their activities including school performance, work experiences, after school involvement, peer relationships, adult relationships, and recreation.

  • Let your teen know that you are interested in their whereabouts, how they are getting there and back, what their activities are and who they will be with.
  • Know that monitoring is most easily done if you have a relationship with your teen that is built on love and trust.
  • Rely on good communication, observation and talking with other parents to help you monitor their teen.

    Parent message number three: Guide and limit – loosen up, but don't let go. Teens need parents to uphold a clear but evolving set of boundaries which keeps encouraging in-creased competence and maturity.

  • Maintain family or "house" rules around the non-negotiable issue like safety and family values while negotiating on things like household tasks and schedules.
  • Communicate expectations that are high, but realistic.
  • Choose your battles. Ask yourself what is really important.
  • Use discipline as a tool for teaching, not for venting or taking revenge.
  • As your teen's abilities change, work out new responsibilities and privileges accordingly.

    Parent message number four: Model and consult – during the teen years, parents still matter; teens still care. Teens need parents to provide ongoing information and support around decision making, values, skills, goals and getting around in the larger world. Parents teach by example, and two-way communication.

  • Set a good example around risk taking, health habits and emotional control.
  • Express your personal position around moral, social, spiritual and political issues.
  • Model the kind adult relationships you would like your teen to have.
  • Respond to your teen's questions truthfully taking into account their age and maturity.
  • Keep family traditions.
  • Support your teen's education in and out of school.
  • Help your teen get information for planning their future.

    Parent message number five: Provide and advocate – you can't control their world, but you can add to and subtract from it. Teens need parents to make available not only adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, but also a supportive home environment and a network of caring adults.

  • Look for resources in your community, school and religious institutions that will provide positive adult and peer relationships.
  • Make informed decisions about opportunities as you work with your teen.
  • Arrange or advocate for preventive health care.
  • Seek out people and programs to support and help you handle parental responsibilities and challenges in raising teens.

    Good luck in raising your teen! Recognize that it is another phase of parenting and there are many positives that one day you will look back with fond memories. Your teen needs you now more than ever as they encounter an ever-changing world since the Internet has opened so many new options. Always remember, you are the parent.

    From Raising Teens. Harvard School of Public Health 2001 and University of Minnesota Extension Service.

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