How to Toe the Line Between Being a Parent and a Friend to Your Teen

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and trends in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at a Chicago Tribune article on how to draw the line between being your teen’s parent and being their friend.

Every parent has run into the internal struggle of straddling the line between being a parent and being a friend to their teen. It’s difficult when it feels like our teens don’t “like” us after we’ve put a foot down on something, but at the end of the day, it’s important that teens respect our authority to set necessary boundaries to keep them safe. In a recent article, Chicago Tribune provided advice for drawing the line and gives an overview on how start as an authoritative figure with young children and ultimately transition into more of a mentor role in the late teen years as they prepare to leave home. Having a line drawn of when children should respect your authority is especially important when it comes to keeping teens away from risky behaviors like substance abuse.

Start Early

In the early years, establish what your rules are and the cost of breaking them, so as your teen grows up, they understand your expectations. Teens can be emotional creatures (shocking, we know), so they can get very upset in the moment you say no to something they want to do. If they knew ahead of time that said activity was not allowed, they would have been less invested in it, and ultimately less disappointed about not being able to partake. For example, if you’d like to enforce a rule of “No dates until you’re 16,” make sure they know that a few years before they turn 16. You could avoid a very upset 14-year-old who just came to you asking if they can go on a date.

Create an Open Dialogue

Enforcing a laundry list of rules and restrictions may result in your teen sneaking around and lying to you so they don’t get in trouble. Instead, establish a few set rules, such as a curfew or a standard of checking in with you when they arrive somewhere – this will help encourage your teen to keep an open dialogue with you about their activities. They won’t feel the need to hide things from you, and you’ll know more about what is going on their life.

Talk to them About Risky Behaviors

Being the authority figure sometimes means having tough conversations. It’s important for your teen to understand the risks of dangerous behaviors before they’re old enough to be exposed to them. As soon as they’re old enough to understand, start conversations about risky activities they could run into, such as substance abuse. In fact, teens who have the “drug talk” with their parents/guardians are 50% less likely to abuse.

In addition to warning teens of the dangers of abusing illicit and prescription drugs, you also need to talk about the abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) substances such as cough medicine. While these medicines are safe and effective, 1 in 30 teens admits that they have abused OTC cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high, resulting in dangerous side effects.

One way to balance being a parent and a friend is through ensuring your teen is aware of dangerous situations, while also letting them know that you are there to talk if they are ever in a bad spot. As Casherie Bright, a Utah-based therapist focusing on kids and teens, told the Chicago Tribune, “Parents need to be able to discipline their child, and be OK if their child doesn’t always like them because parents have to make hard decisions.” It is possible to be the parent AND the friend, because at the end of the day, what’s most important is that our teens are safe and healthy.

The Stop Medicine Abuse campaign works to inform parents about teen medicine abuse, so we can all work together to prevent and stop abuse. Click around this website to find the warning signs of abuse, slang terms teens use to talk about abusing DXM, and tips for preventing abuse in your home and community.

Along with following our blog, you can keep up with the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on studies, parenting tips and more information on keeping teens from engaging in risky behaviors.