Getting real with teens

Hormone surges aside, the reality of transitioning into the teen years is one of challenges, fears, and perceptions of great pressure. The teenage years can be a struggle for the child, parents, and other siblings as well. The patience required to meet each situation has tested the sanity of many an adult, and just when you the think “the worst” has past-the “worst” appears!

In all of this, there is hope for stability for both the child and family as they progress through their teen years. A large dose of reality can have a huge impact on surviving these difficult times, however be mindful, no one said it would be easy. As the parent or adult responsible for the teen, you must be the #1 person to define what this reality is. When reality is defined by peers, television, or internet influences you lose your positions of control.

The following tips can assist adults in defining the certainty of decision making and repercussions for the teen.

• Post in writing in an area your family is familiar with “ground rules” related to: Homework time, TV/computer time, chores and other responsibilities, bed time and curfew times weekdays and weekends.

• Have a family meeting with the teen and any adults responsible for them. At this meeting have a frank discussion of realistic expectations you have as adults of the teen. Some topics for consideration might include: Respect for family, friends, and the law, no use of alcohol and or drugs, no lying, school behavior and grades and social activities/friends.

• Ask the teen to share with you what they expect of you as their parent(s) as they grow through their teen years. Negotiate with them using they feel they need.

• Teen wants “more freedom”- ask for specifics and arrange a trial run and if they comply with the ground rules, add another freedom.

• Teen wants to be treated differently now. Ask them for specifics and negotiate in return that they demonstrate how you expect them to treat you

• Define the reality of repercussions for not complying with your ground rules. Put these in writing so there is no question about the discussion. When possible have the repercussion have a connection to the poor decision they made. (See suggestions on accompanying chart)

In all of this, be mindful that your teen also does some great things and has many good qualities. Find ways to commend the positive and compliment them in front of other family members, their teachers, etc. As you look at a reward system, remember just because you think it is a reward does not mean it is special to your teen. Ask your teen to list for you five things that make them feel good about themselves, three things they would like to do that they have never done before and a list of their favorites (food, games, etc).

You and your teen will survive these transitional years and your planning ahead by defining ground rules and being considerate of their needs brings the big dose of reality the entire family needs.

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