Parenting – Stay Connected!
A strong feeling of connection to the family now will help them withstand all sorts of threats.
Tips and encouragement for parents of children and teens
Did you know that most teenagers move through adolescence without much trouble? Most develop into healthy young adults and with family support and encouragement most cope well with school and social life during these teenage years and achieve their potential for a healthy and happy future.
But some don’t! And some teenagers give their parents a tough time in the process of growing up. Parents may then ask themselves what they can do to protect their teenagers from making poor decisions or having so much difficulty in their lives.
So how can you help?
- Talk to your teenager about the things that are important to both of you. Open up those communication channels because communication is the key to developing good relationships with your teen.
- Make sure your teenager feels strongly about themselves. Getting your teen to concentrate on positive aspects of their personality, appearance and achievements helps foster their self-esteem which is vital for dealing with the pitfalls of adolescence.
- Make sure your teenager feels they really belong to the family. A strong feeling of connection to the family now will help withstand all sorts of threats.
- Make sure that family rules are in place. Teens love to challenge rules and as well as the obvious benefits of rules, they will learn about self-discipline and self control.
- Set firm boundaries and don’t be afraid to be firm about your values. Let your teenager know exactly where you stand on certain issues. Teens are in the process of forming their own values about important issues. They will most certainly challenge you but this is normal and good for the teen who is working through what he/she believes.
- You don’t need to be an expert to talk to your teenager. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, you are the best person to impart knowledge, skills and values.
- You are the most effective role model for your teenager. They will learn more from watching you and how you behave than from anything you can tell them.
“It has been shown in American studies that teenagers who have a strong sense of belonging to their family develop a resilience that helps them to withstand many of the hazards of teenage culture, and are less likely to be involved with the more dangerous behaviours of youth.” (The Puberty Game. Dr John Court. 1997)
Tips for good communication with teenagers
Encourage Your Kids To Open Up!
Work at it
- plan time together
- ask for their opinions
Seek to understand
- accept what the child feels is valid
Respond – Show you’re listening
- eye contact
- posture, open and attentive
- request more information to show your interest
- reflect their feelings back to them to show you understand:
“This has made you really angry.”
“That was embarrassing for you.”
- don’t interrupt
- don’t pre-prepare your answer while they are still talking
- encourage by voice, eyes, gestures
Affirm your teenager’s worth, dignity and value
- avoid put-downs
- build self-esteem:
“You did a great job.”
“I’m proud of the way you handled that.”
- don’t embarrass them in public; avoid personal criticism
- apologise when you are in the wrong
- 90% praise, 10% criticism
- use humour but not sarcasm
- keep calm and lower your voice
Keep their secrets
- privacy is important
- earn their confidence
- build trust
Wait for the right time
- for correcting/criticising
- “With what words do I send him/her off for the day?”
- “With what words do I welcome him/her home?”
- “With what words do I leave him/her to go to sleep?”
Share your feelings
- be vulnerable, open
- share fears and joys
- try ‘I-messages’:
“I feel worried when you don’t let me know where you are. What can we do about this?”
- NOT ‘You-messages’
“You are always so thoughtless and inconsiderate. You never think about me.”
- ‘I-messages’ will help resolve the problem.
Don’t make assumptions
- set very clear boundaries and firm guidelines
- mind-reading never works
TALKING TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SEX – STAY CONNECTED!
When is the right time to talk about sex?
There is no right time, or right age. It’s more a matter of responding in a natural way to the questions your children ask, from toddlerhood up. kids are full of questions about everything. Don’t let sex be the topic they learn not to ask YOU – their parent – about. If you lay the groundwork when they are little, the element of embarrassment or hesitation can be overcome.
It has been said that the media – who loves your child the least – often tells them the most about sex, while you – who love your child the most – often tell them the least…
Embrace the privilege!
Children learn best about sexuality when –
- information is given within a warm, healthy parental relationship
- questions are answered naturally according to their stage of development
- information and values go hand in hand
Give enough information to satisfy their curiosity. If they want to know more they will ask further questions. If children ask at inappropriate times, or if you don’t know the answer, tell them you will get back to them on it – and always do so! Look up information together in a book or appropriate website like 4teenz.com.au, or watch a DVD like CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR CHILD (see Catalogue). It’s the perfect starting point and can be used just for your own information or as something to watch together.
Take the lead!
Better parent/child communication about issues like sex can lead to a lowering of adolescent risk taking behaviour. Your children and teens need to hear what your values are about sex and relationships. This does not mean that they will agree with you on all things! BUT bouncing their own opinions off a solid adult ‘wall’ helps them refine their own developing value system and become independent thinkers.
Open up the line of communication early, before the issues get trickier and before adolescent reticence kicks in.
Censor inappropriate media content for young children and teens, including so called ‘teen’ magazines which regularly feature explicit sexual content. As children mature, look for opportunities to discuss song lyrics, tv shows, fashion trends, etc. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and explain your expectations.
Check out what they are reading, discussing in class, viewing on the net and listening to.
RESOURCES YOU CAN TRUST
CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR CHILD about sex, puberty and growing up – Parent Education DVD (see Catalogue)
RESILIENT KIDS INTERACTIVE CD-ROMS – learn the skills of bouncing back from tough times through interactive fun. For children and teens. (see Catalogue)
TEEN WEBSITE: www.4teenz.com.au – value based information, advice and support for young teenagers thinking about puberty, relationships and sex.
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