It’s not easy to raise a teenager. Fitting in, developing romantic interests and choosing colleges are just a fraction of the challenges you’ll navigate with your teen – statistics tell us that drug and alcohol use, depression, behavioral disorders and violence are increasingly common amongst high school students.
So how can you set up your teen for success?
First, acknowledge your teen’s accomplishments and good choices.
It’s important to communicate with your teen when things are going well, not just when there is an issue that needs to be discussed. Reinforce your son or daughter’s positive choices by thanking them or telling them how proud you are. When your teen knows that they’re likely to receive praise for something, they’re more likely to repeat that behavior.
And you don’t need to wait for a big event to praise your son or daughter : you can put this habit into practice for something as small as remembering to take out the trash or something as large as turning down a beer at a party. The more you communicate positivity to your teenager, the more your son or daughter will see you as an ally and source of support.
Second, spend time talking and doing activities together.
Therapists agree that there are distinct benefits to spending time talking or enjoying leisure activities with your son or daughter. Teenagers who spend regular quality time with their parents get higher grades, are less likely to develop behavioral problems and feel more connected to their families. In addition, kids who share meals with their parents are more likely to tell them about any serious problems and are less likely to have weight problems or use drugs.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for tips for talking with your teenager.
Finally, set boundaries and expectations – for both of you.
Yes, you need to keep open lines of communication with your teenager. No, that doesn’t mean you’re expected to be their best friend. Set clear ground rules for your son or daughter and enforce consequences when rules are broken. A consistent, disciplined environment provides teens with a sense of stability and manageable expectations.
And remember that respect works both ways: don’t invade your son or daughter’s privacy just because you’re in charge. It’s natural for teens to want more independence and time to themselves. As long as your teen is following the rules, let them have some space. Showing trust and respect for your teen lets them reap the benefits of making good choices and instills them with a sense of responsibility.
Need more help? See this infographic with more easy tips on how to parent teens.