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Raising Teens

Part 1

Contents of Raising Teens

Page 2:  Raising Responsible Teens

Page 3:  Teens and Romance

Page 4:  Teens and Risky Behaviors

Part 2

Raising Responsible Teens

Survival Plan for Parents and Teens

Parenting a teenager can be a mind-boggling experience.  One minute they are yelling things like:

“I hate you!”

“Don’t speak to me.”

“Nobody else’s parents do that.”

The next minute you are holding their head while they are sick, they are asking you to borrow the car or they want to snuggle up next to you on the couch.  It’s enough to make your head spin and cause you to question, “Is this the same kid who told me he never wanted to see me again minutes ago?”

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. 

In comparing notes with many parents who are currently raising teens and those who have lived to tell about it, one might think there really is a universal playbook used by all teens that makes parents question their sanity.  At any given moment, you may wish you could ground your teenager for life.  BUT, that would defeat the whole purpose of adolescence.

Adolescence is when children learn the skills and strategies of adults and that takes time and patience, but the process can be painful for both adults and teens.

Consider these things:

  • Parenting experts say that one of the reasons adolescence is so challenging is that parents often don’t recognize the strongest needs of their teen.
  • Parents look into their teen’s world through adult eyes and needs.  They tend to miss all of the change and internal conflict their teen is experiencing in continuing to have their needs for belonging, freedom, power and fun met.
  • Parents need to feel in control whereas their adolescent is competing for his freedom. 
  • Both parent and teen have well-developed strategies for getting their needs met.  These differing needs and strategies often intensify to the point that the relationship between parent and child becomes strained.

Teenagers need adult intervention during adolescence more than ever before.

Adults should not assume that once teens begin to look like adults they will automatically start thinking like an adult, relating like mature adults and making responsible decisions.

If you are leading an adolescent into mature adulthood, here are a few things to consider:

  • Remember your own teenage struggles.
  • Don’t panic.  It is important not to let your fears control you.
  • Don’t overreact.  Most teens say they do not open up to their parents because they tend to overreact.
  • Make sure to handle things in a way that builds your teen up versus tearing them down.
  • Take time to enter your teen’s world – spend time with them, listen to their music, get to know their friends.
  • Provide direction according to their needs…not yours.
  • Understand that teens don’t want you to fix it for them.  They want you to listen to them. A teen’s self-confidence is built through learning to problem solve and come up with reasonable solutions.
  • Separate the behavior from the teen.  Love your teen and don’t be afraid to deal with unacceptable behavior.
  • Develop a support network of parents who have been there, done that.
  • Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.

Raising teenagers is a predictable challenge for most parents. Keep perspective and recognize you will survive…after all, your parents did.

The Teen Years Explained

Parenting Teens

Helping Teens Manage Money

Cleaning House

Parenting and Adolescence

Teens and Organization

Communicating With Teens (video)

Part 3

Teens and Romance

Setting Dating Standards

It is vital for young people to set and stick to dating standards as they build relationships. The role of a parent is that of teacher and encourager, not dictator.

Before your child gets to the level of maturity where he or she is ready to date, decide upon your dating standards.

Determine how old your teenager must be to date. Set a curfew and describe in advance what the consequences will be for breaking this curfew and STICK TO THEM.

Additional expectations should be:

  • Your teen must always tell you:
    • Where he/she will be;
    • Phone number or numbers where he/she can be reached;
    • Who he/she is going out with;
    • What they will be doing; and
    • When he/she will return.
  • If they don’t know the answers to these questions, they don’t go out on the date.
  • If he/she is going to be late, a courtesy phone call is expected to let you know about the situation; this does not excuse coming in after curfew and the consequences set.
  • If your teenager is a female, let her know in advance that you expect her dates to come to the door to get her and to meet her parents.
  • Your teen should always carry enough money to get a cab/bus ride home if necessary.

Items to discuss before your teen dates:

  • Why does he/she want to date?
  • What does he/she hope to have happen?
  • Has your teen considered group dating? What are the benefits of group dating?
  • If you have a daughter preparing to date, does she have an emergency plan in case her date becomes forceful or violent? The “It won’t happen to me” plan is not good enough.
  • Encourage a first-date activity to be something that provides opportunity for lots of conversation.
  • Talk with your teenager about treating their date with respect. What does that look like?
  • Discuss the potential for hormonally-charged situations and how to avoid them.
  • What kind of messages does your teenager send by their clothing choices? If you are the father of a teenage daughter, think about this subject very carefully, and make sure your daughter knows that men can be easily aroused by…you fill in the blanks for her. Instruct your sons to be respectful.
  • Who will be paying for the date? The parents or the teenager? What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a date? Let your teenager know that just because someone buys them dinner doesn’t mean they owe them anything.
  • Make sure your teenager knows that you are there for them and willing to listen if they need to talk.
  • If your teenager is female, talk about the dangers of dating guys much older than them.
  • Discuss the idea that dating is about developing a growing friendship–NOT about getting sexually involved.

Teens, Technology and Romance

Teen Dating Violence

Dating Dos and Don’ts for Teens

A Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy

Teaching Kids About Relationships (video)

Part 4

Teens and Risky Behaviors

Teens want to know what adults think, even if they don’t act like it.

  • Adults are powerful figures in the lives of young people and hold the key to preventing teen pregnancy.
  • An MTV poll found teens ranked their parents as their #1 heroes.

Forget about “The Talk.”

It is an 18-year conversation about love, relationships, values and sex. Start early and let your kids know that you are an “askable parent.”

  • Teens tell us their parents tend to give them information too late and in too vague a way.
  • They can get clinical information from school or books (and they already know more than you think), but what they really seek are parents who are comfortable talking with them about relationships, how to handle peer pressure to have sex, how to say “no” without hurting feelings, and other such issues.

Don’t let your daughter get involved with a much older guy.

  • Teen girls who date much older guys are more likely to report later that they didn’t really want to have sex in the first place and are less likely to use birth control/contraception.
  • Among mothers aged 15-17, about 1 in4 has a partner who is at least five years older.
  • Older boys and men can lead younger girls into very risky situations and relationships.
  • 70% of teenage pregnancies are caused by guys over the age of 20.

Sometimes, all it takes for teens not to have sex is not to have the opportunity.

  • Many teens say that if they had something to do after school that’s fun and interesting, they are less likely to experiment with sex, drinking and other risky activities.
  • If parents can’t be home with kids after school, they need to make sure their kids are busy doing something constructive and engaging.

Parents need to make girls feel valued and important.

You can’t give a girl self-esteem, but you can give her the opportunity to develop it! Encourage her involvement in sports, volunteering, drama classes or other activities that make her feel talented and confident.

  • Girls involved in sports are half as likely to get pregnant as non-athletes, regardless of how much sex education they have. They are more likely to delay sex until they are older, and to use protection when they do so.
  • Another study shows that girls who are active volunteers throughout their high school years have half the teen pregnancy rates of the average for their peers.
  • If you give a girl something positive to say “yes” to, she’ll be much more likely to say “no, not yet” to sex and pregnancy.
  • Remember, condoms do not protect the heart.

Talk to sons as well as daughters.

The nearly 1,000,000 teen girls who got pregnant each year don’t do it alone.

Boys need to know that teen pregnancy happens to them, too. We need to talk to boys – not just girls – about consequences, responsibility, sex, love and values. Surveys show that boys want to do the right thing.

Learn the facts yourself.

It is a scary world out there. Sexually transmitted diseases have multiplied at a frightening rate in the last 30 years.

  • We have gone from two to 38 identifiable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), and some of these – including AIDS, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Herpes – are incurable.
  • HPV causes more than 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers, and condoms do not prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 45 million Americans have HPV.
  • In addition, chlamydia is rampant and is frequently symptomless. Chlamydia is a leading cause of infertility in later life.

Adapted from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Tips for Parents

10 Tips for Parents:  Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Teen Sex and the Brain

Preparing Kids for the Pressure Cooker

Warning Signs in Teens

Teens and Risky Behavior (video)

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