Dealing with today's teen issues

Imagine growing up in current times: Your best friend just got a nose ring, tattoos abound in gym class, and classmates talk about everything from hair styles to homosexuality in Internet chat rooms. Think about raging hormones, a need to rebel, and peer pressure in your child's daily life. It's no wonder that teens and preteens have the potential for making mistakes that could affect the rest of their lives.

The world has changed so quickly that parents may not recognize the pitfalls awaiting their children. You may be shocked and confused by your child's completely unfamiliar world. Help your child to make good choices by understanding the daily pressures he or she must deal with. Don't isolate yourself from his or her reality out of fear or feeling uncomfortable.

Be aware and informed about your child's activities.

  • Stay involved—know who your child's friends and their parents are. And know where your child is and what your child does in his or her spare time. This doesn't mean you should grill or nag your child. Instead, show interest and demonstrate that you care about his or her general welfare.
  • Remember to listen, listen, listen. The best way to find out the issues your child faces is to keep discussion open and listen to what he or she talks about. Avoid the 2 Ps—patronizing and preaching.
  • Support his or her interests. Ask questions about which subjects and activities excite him or her, and try to expand on them. For example, if your daughter loves to draw, consider visiting a museum to expose her to other art forms.
  • Don't panic. Just because your child expresses a desire for something you disagree with, don't jump to conclusions. For example, if your daughter wants to get a tattoo or a navel ring, it does not mean she is on drugs and on a downward spiral. If she gets good grades, has good friends, and responsibly juggles a full schedule, she is likely just trying to express her individuality—separating herself from her parents by trying to identify with her peers—and a navel ring is one way of doing that. Regardless of the solution, attentively listen and try to understand her viewpoint. Be willing to say: "The problem is ours. We are worried because of ... "
  • Seek compromises. Although parents need to set clear boundaries about what is acceptable to them, older children often rebel against parental dictates and absolutes. A navel ring may be one way your child tests his or her limits. As a compromise, you might offer more acceptable ear piercing or temporary tattoos.
  • Set clear limits about the Internet and text messaging. E-mail, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking Web sites, and text messages are being used to taunt kids or hurt their feelings. And most kids have Internet access—which virtually brings the world into your home, including pornography, hate propaganda, and intense advertising. Internet safety tips for your family include:
    • Keep the computer in a shared area where you can see what your child is doing online.
    • Check the Web browser history.
    • Don't let your child use chat rooms. Your child may not realize he or she is communicating with a predatory adult.
    • Use filters or other parental control features and block certain Web sites.
    • Talk to your child about the potential dangers of the Internet. Get to know your child's online friends. And tell your child not to give out any personal identifying information or meet with an online contact.

Last Updated: February 1, 2010

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