April 07, 2014 —
Think back to your teen years. How many of you would like to relive high school? I'm listening, but I don't hear anyone saying “yes.” It's pretty consistent across the board. Most of us experienced some degree of stress and confusion during those years and would rather not go back to high school.
I'm thinking about the current generation of teens and how we can make these adolescent years easier for them. I am quite confident that teens fare better if they have at least one adult in their life that they trust and can confide in. With a reliable adult presence, teens are less susceptible to peer pressure and less likely to engage in potentially risky behaviors. On the flipside, they are more likely to make good decisions. That's what we want for our teens, right?
So, how do we go about making sure that our teens develop relationships with adults who are positive role models and available to talk to them? Listen up because I have some good ideas.
- Create opportunities for your teenage children to be around positive role models. Get them involved in activities where there are teachers, leaders and coaches. An incidental benefit of activities is that they just might meet an adult who they feel understands them and is positively invested in their well-being.
- Let your teens know that it is fine for them to confide in an adult who is not their parent. Perhaps they have good chemistry with a friend's parent or an aunt. Encourage this relationship. It does not mean that you are not a good parent.
- If you are a parent and a potential confidante for a teen, make an effort to listen without judging, interrupting or becoming too emotional. Teens will talk if they see that you are listening calmly. I am not saying that this is always easy, but it is necessary.
- Be available. Interestingly, teens see parents as less available than parents see themselves. Put away your phone and computer when your teens want to talk.
- Remember that teens really do want to talk. No topic should be off the table. Sex, drugs, bullying and alcohol are all important topics. Use media opportunities to help you broach these topics. If there is media coverage of a celebrity who is having substance abuse issues, go ahead and discuss this with your teen. Teens love to give their opinions and while they are at it they may start talking about themselves.
Good luck. Being a parent to a teen is no easy task but it can sure be a lot of fun.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their parents. She was the Director of an Inpatient Adolescent Unit for several years. She is now in private practice in Fairfield County CT. and is the Adolescent Consultant at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan CT. Her blogs and media appearances can be viewed at http://drbarbaragreenberg.com/.