It’s not easy being a teenager — you’re trying to figure out who you are, hormones are flying around, there are complex social arrangements to manage, and so on. But if you think it’s tough being a teenager, then what about being the parent of a teenager? Seemingly overnight, your little boy or girl has grown into something of a monster — or at least a more volatile version of who they used to be. Because this is a crazy — the craziest — period in their life, it’s important that you take some measures to keep them safe, from others and themselves. Below, we take a look at some useful tips.
Teenagers can be pretty moody. It’s not their fault — it’s all those hormones that are flying around. One consequence of this is that they begin to shut down. They withdraw into their head a little more. Whereas in the good old days they used to be open, expressive, willing to talk, you might find that it’s difficult to get two words out of them. To keep them safe, however, you need to know what’s going on in their life. Do your best to get them to engage in conversation — if nothing else, it’ll let them know that you’re there to talk to them should they need it.
Be a Presence
Teenagers don’t have to look very far to find trouble. It’s all around them. The ones who usually fall into bad habits and with the wrong crowd are the ones who didn’t have someone figuratively looking over their shoulder. A teenager is always going to be curious about life, but that curiosity won’t be able to reach dangerous levels if they know their parents are “keeping tabs” on what they’re up to. Make sure you’re a presence in their life, that you’re home, that you’re attending school report meetings — everything basically, to let your child know that they’re not going through life on their own.
Know Their Friends
When you’re a teenager, the people who influence you most isn’t your parents or your teacher or any other traditional role model — it’s your friends. They’re the ones who are going to decide how you’re spending your Friday and Saturday evenings. If it’s a bad crowd, then they’ll find trouble, and your son or daughter will get caught up in the mess, even if they weren’t directly involved. While there’s only so much influence you can have on who your child befriends at school, you can have an influence on who sticks around. If you meet your child’s friends and find that they’re not the most positive influence, you’ll have a chance to talk to your son or daughter, and nudge them towards teenagers who are better for them.
Your teenager is going to want to spend time socializing with their friends. They’re teenagers — what else are they going to do? The problem is that if they’re visiting another friend’s home, you don’t know what’s going to be happening. Their friends might be fine, but you won’t know the identity of everyone who’s going to be there, and what if something gets out of hands, and the parents of the friend aren’t there? It’s much better to host social nights at your house. It can be a bit annoying and loud, sure, but at least you’ll know who’s there and what’s happening.
Of course, you’re not going to turn your home into the weekly party place. Even if you generally encourage your teenager to invite their friends around, there’ll be times when there’s a party somewhere else, and it would be cruel to tell your son or daughter that they can’t go! What you can do, however, is let them know that you’re always available to pick them up. This is an especially big thing when they’re around the age when alcohol might be present. Let them know that if they’re ever in a situation where they’re feeling ill/in need of any assistance, then they can call you, you’ll take care of them, and they won’t be in trouble. Your teenager will experiment with one thing or another eventually; make sure you’re not cutting down the bridge that’ll bring them back to safety by making them feel like they can’t call you.
Behind the Wheel
Some areas of teenage life are more dangerous than others. Their friends might be a little wilder than you’d like, but ultimately they’re only people, and there’s only so much damage that they can do without your friend actively joining them, and even then, they can be on the periphery of danger, rather than in the center. But then there are the aspects of teenage life which really are dangerous, such as when they’re behind the wheel of their vehicle. Because you’re more likely to be in an accident on the roads when you’re a teenage driver, it’s important that you’re talking to your son or daughter about teen driver safety.
There is also plenty of new technology that can help to keep them safe on the roads, too., which you can look at integrating into their vehicle. Much of what’s involved in keeping them safe, however, involves simply talking to them about the best practices to follow when they’re behind the wheel, such as keeping their phone away, concentrating on the roads than on a conversation with friends, and so on.
In the Online World
You have to feel a little sorry for teenagers. While older generations were slowly introduced to the internet and social media websites, your children had it forced upon them. It’s not as if they asked for Instagram! Alas, we’re beginning to understand now that using the internet isn’t all positive. Indeed, there are some potentially damaging downsides to consider, such as cyberbullying and, less directly, confidence issues that can arise from using social media. To prevent your child from going down a rabbit hole of negative internet usage, it’s best to, first, talk to them about the downsides (and remind them that what happens online shouldn’t be taken too seriously), and also try to make sure their main internet usage happens in communal family rooms, rather than the privacy of their bedroom.
An Inch of Freedom
Most parents would prefer if their teenager rode out their awkward, confusing years at home, where they could be seen, and away from trouble. But that’s not going to happen. The more you try to dictate their behavior, the more they’ll rebel against it. Because of this, the better approach is to make sure you’re giving enough freedom to satiate their curiosity. Of course, don’t give too much. It’s all about finding the balance between making sure they don’t feel trapped, and ensuring there are limits on what they’re doing.
Not all conversations can be lighthearted, funny, surface-based. Your teenager will be going through some crazy things, things they can’t understand. They might get themselves into damaging situations without fully realizing how they got there — only that they want to go out. At such times, knowing that you can turn to your parents for guidance is invaluable. Whatever you do, make sure your children know that you’ll always, always be there to help them should they need it. If they don’t know this, and feel they can’t come to you, then they might fall deeper into whatever mess they’ve found themselves in.
Involved in the Community
You don’t raise your child by yourself. You’re not the only one who has a say in how your child transitions into adulthood. Celebrities do, their friends do, their favorite rock album does. And so does the community in which they spend their formative years. So take a look at your surroundings, and get involved. The better the community is, the better the kids turn out — this has always been the case. But prosperous communities don’t just appear from nothing, they’re created through the care and hard work of others. Get involved, and make a difference.
It’s a sad reality of life that teenage depression and other mental health issues are on the rise. While everything might seem to be fine on the surface, the reality might be different. Who knows what’s going on in your son or daughter’s mind, if they’re not telling you, and you’re not asking? This should be a fun, carefree period of their life. Make sure that’s the case by being aware of the symptoms of teenage depression. If something seems wrong, reach out and give them the help they need.
On the Right Path
In the grand scheme of things, teenage years can seem unimportant. But this isn’t the case. How you develop in your later teenage years has a big impact on the rest of your life. While you’ll want to ensure that they’re having a fun time, do your best to guide them towards a path that’s going to lead to good things in the future. They’ll thank you for it one day!