The teenage years are marked with new experiences. Teenagers want to be independent and are drawn to exciting, new opportunities. During this time period, chemical changes in the brain also motivate teens to seek out risky behavior. What can parents do, then, to help their teens learn to exercise good judgment despite the internal and external motivators they have to make poor choices?
Strategies parents can use to help teenagers make good decisions:
- Help your teen to take positive risks. For example, encourage your teen to try out for a new sport, visit a new place, or make new friends. This will help instill confidence and self control in your teen. It will also satisfy your teen’s quest for new or exciting things.
- Allow your teen have some control. If he is meeting his school, activity and home responsibilities, let him decide what, when and how to do things. This will help foster independence, and as a bonus, will help form leadership qualities.
- Get to know your teen’s friends. Together set the expectation for how often your teen will check in with you; explain you want to know what they are doing and with whom. Talk to his friends for a short time when they are at your house. Meet the parents of these children. This will help build trust between you and your teen.
- Work together to set rules and to establish a curfew. Together, decide what consequences will be put in place if a rule is broken or an expectation is not met. In establishing these guidelines, listen to your teen regarding what he or she wants, and talk about what you want for your teen as well. Rules are better enforced when expectations are set ahead of time.
Raising teens can be a wonderful, but sometimes difficult, process. Read here for what to do when you don’t like your teen’s friends. For more information on handling a challenging teen, click here to learn about our mental health services.
References: The Amazing Teen Brain: What Parents Need To Know, Linda Burgess Chamberlain PHD. Institute for safe families.