Raising a teen is no easy task. Throughout the teen years, your child will have to make many difficult decisions in which the right choice is not always clear.
Plain and simple, teens want to fit in. Peer pressure factors heavily into the decision-making process, especially regarding serious issues such as drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs. As a parent, you have an inherent desire to protect your child from risky influences that have the potential to harm her. However, you can’t and won’t always be present at the moment your teen is faced with a serious choice to make.
As your child grows older, parenting becomes more about guidance and less about control. You can always support your teen by offering love and wisdom and by just letting her know you’re there. By being present and attuned to your teen, you will be able to build a solid foundation for her to make responsible choices.
When your teen comes to speak with you regarding a poor decision she has made or is facing, make it an opportunity to connect, show support, and give guidance. The way you approach this discussion will impact whether they will feel comfortable speaking with you in the future. The key is simple: listen, relate and teach.
It takes courage for teens to speak with their parents about the hardships they are facing, especially if they believe their parents will not approve. Allow your teen to describe the issue or decision at hand. Ask open-ended questions that avoid yes or no responses. Listen to what is being said rather than thinking about your own responses.
Put yourself in your teen’s shoes. I’m sure you remember a time when you told your parents about a poor decision you made, and felt as though they misjudged you. Your role is not to make her feel guilty. It is to make her feel loved and supported. This is your opportunity to communicate to her that you are fully present.
Every moment in which your teen confides her struggles is a moment to teach. Teaching is a form of guidance. After you have listened and heard the full story, talk with your teen about her choices. Sometimes she might feel like she doesn’t have a choice. Help her by discussing some alternative and responsible options as well as their benefits and consequences. Emphasize what a safe choice is and remind her that her emotional and physical heath is the most important factor in decision-making.
When your little child has grown into a resilient teen, it is important to realize your role as a parent has transitioned to a guide. It is important to allow your teen to make decisions and carry them out. Allow her to live and learn from her mistakes and speak up when she makes responsible adult decisions.
The most important lesson you can teach your teen is to grow from past mistakes. Remind her that she will always have a close relationship with you as she walks through the challenges of life.