You were the first person to hold him when he was born. You held her hands as she learned to walk. You were there to teach them right from wrong and kiss away the hurts. You are the first person that your child bonded with and for the first part of their life, your influence in their life is unmistakable.
The onset of the teenage years are often characterized by an overwhelming urge for independence. Not only will your child begin the process of pulling away from you, but you may find yourself wondering if he ever listens to a word you say as defiance and rebellion come into play. However, your influence in this phase of your teens life is as important as ever as he learns how to navigate a world full of pitfalls and learning experiences. There are a variety of things parents can do to make a difference in their teen’s life and help keep them on the road to successful adulthood.
1- Connect – Your teen needs to know that you still care about him whether he wants to let you in or not. Keep yourself informed of his interests, his friends and his day to day life. There will come a day when he will need your advice or help and he will feel more secure asking for or receiving it if he knows that you already know what is going on in his life.
2- Communicate – Try to remember what it felt like as a teenager yourself. While the “parent’s word is law” approach might have worked for your child when he was younger, your newly independent teen is likely to balk. Approach him on an adult level to discuss rules and consequences in a calm way rather than only trying to make an impression in the heat of the moment. Allow your teen to have a voice when it comes to behavioral issues as well as his freedom and responsibility. While you may have years of experience that can tell you what is best for your teen, your job as a parent is also to gradually teach him to use his independence responsibly. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible and your teen may be less likely to respond with rudeness or defiance.
3- Educate Early and Often – Talk to your teen early about the consequences of drug and alcohol use as well as promiscuity. Your child may be exposed to many of these things earlier than you think. You can play a large part in both educating them about the dangers associated with these things, as well as helping them determine what their response should be when they eventually come across such situations. Don’t assume that one conversation will do it. Studies have shown that teens whose parents communicate regularly with them about sex education and substance abuse are less likely to make poor choices.
4- Be Vigilant About Technology – Advances in technology mean that although we may have the latest and greatest methods of communication at our fingertips, it also opens more opportunities for teens to get into trouble. Bullying via social media and the ease of pornographic access make the teenage years more of a minefield than they used to be. Do your research about the most effective parental controls and the details about various social media sites your teen may want to participate in. Know their passwords and help them understand that the privilege of cell phones and computer access also comes with some loss of privacy for their protection.
5- Set a Good Example – You are your child’s best and most influential role model. He will watch everything you say and do and although he may not realize it until years later, he is learning how to be a parent and a partner through your example. Be the kind of person you would want your child to emulate.
Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys.