If you are a parent of a teenager, you probably have worried at one point in time about the many issues that face them including drugs, alcohol and tobacco use, dangerous driving, sexual activity, school, peer and social issues.
You’ve probably also worried about losing the influence you have over your teen as they start trying to branch out and find their own identity in the world.
We all know that teenagers face many challenges and changes in the world, and many teenagers like to act as if they can face and deal with these challenges alone.
As a matter of fact, many teens may actually believe that they don’t need any help, but as adults that care about the teens in our lives, we know that’s not always the case.
Teens need guidance. Teens actually want (although they may never admit to it) your help and guidance (just as they actually want rules and limitations).
As a parent, you may think that once your child becomes a teenager, you can sort of step back and let them grow up on their own, stepping in only when they get into trouble, but that is the wrong approach.
Your job as a parent isn’t over, it’s just changing.
Many parents who think like what I just described above, end up with spoiled kids who take no real responsibility for their lives and their actions.
They often believe that they are entitled to many things others have to work hard for and end up becoming young adults and adults with a host of intra and interpersonal problems.
There is some good news however.
If you watch the news or work with a certain population of teens as I do, it’s easy to think that teens today are worse than teens have ever been in history, but that’s actually not true.
Compared to their parents generation, teens today are less likely to become pregnant, smoke, use drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, or commit a violent crime.
They are more likely to volunteer and explore their spiritual side than ever. They are also more tolerant and are more likely to have friends of different races, socio-economic status, religion and ethnic groups. They are also more likely to say tey have positive relationships with their parents.
All the hard work society has put into improving teens is paying off, but not without the help and involvement of parents.
Research shows that teens want and expect their parents to play key roles in their lives. They want advice and guidance and they remember your wise words, even when they act as if they are not listening.
The troubled teens I work with usually come from households where they are lacking parenting or have a parent or parents that don’t know how to be parents. Some are just “bad” parents while others are too busy with their own lives to actively parent their teens.
Despite all the good news about teens, the fact is, the dangers are still there. Any parent can attest to that. If they weren’t, there would be no need for my services and I and all the counselors I know who work with teens, are largely overwhelmed with the number of teens that need counseling.
The problems facing teens are often similar and yet different for each one, and some may surprise you.
Like the fact that rural teens tend to have more drug and alcohol problems than urban teens, and that 30% of high school teens reported driving with someone who has been drinking at least once in the last month.
The teens years are much like when your child first learned to walk. Remember how they would look for something to hold onto such as a table or your leg to help steady themselves?
Sometimes they even freaked out when they couldn’t find something to hold on to, but you were usually their to help guide and protect them and make sure that they didn’t hurt themselves.
Although you stayed close enough to help them not hurt themselves if they started to fall, you also gave them enough room to learn and practice their new abilities and watched with joy as they grew in confidence from crawling, to walking, and eventually running.
Adolescence is very similar.
Your teen needs you to be there as they try to find themselves in the world, or they will find something else to hold onto just as they did as toddlers learning how to walk.
If you are not there for them to hold on to, they will potentially find drugs, alcohol, sex, bad influential friends, crime, you name it.
If you are lucky they will find good friends, healthy and safe adults, teachers, counselors, etc., but you want to be the person who guides your child.
You want to be the person that helps your child navigate through the barriers, which means you have to be close enough to give advice and to answer their questions honestly, but far enough away to allow them to start making and learning from their own decisions.
The adolescence are an exciting and scary part of life. Your teens are changing and growing and although they may start to look like adults, their decision making, risk/reward system are far from fully developed, so they still need you to be their for them, or they will look for and find something/someone else, good or bad.