Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is your teen testing limits?

You might have read in recent articles in the Naperville Sun about drug and alcohol use by teens in the community. The article noted that there has been a 20% increase of drug overdoses in just the past two years. It was also noted that this was not limited to just teens but to adults as well. We strongly recommend your teens not drink or do drugs at all as their brains are still rapidly developing, to say nothing of the legal/driving issues that can accompany these choices.

Be careful what you say in front of your teen. If you smoked pot or won beer pong in your college days, keep it to yourself for now. You can tell them later on in life but right now they will use it against you if you tell them “do as I say, not as I do”.

Teen years are the time of life when young people are stretching their wings, experimenting, gaining independence and learning to become adults. BUT they are not yet adults. They still need boundaries. And sometimes it’s hard for parents to say no, especially if their kid is the superstar at school in grades or sports. It is also wearing to constantly fight with your teen about freedoms. We all know the freedom fights:
• Why can’t I stay out past curfew?
• Why can’t I drive the car after curfew when my license is no longer valid?
• My friends are all doing it!
• I just wanted to try and see what it was like
• What are you going to do to stop me?
• You are the meanest parent ever!
• You did it when you were young so what’s the problem?
• I’m just going to have sex anyway, whether I’m on the pill or not.
• It’s none of your business!
• Why do I have to wait till I’m 15 to date? My friends started dating at 12!
• I’m not like all the other kids…I’m a good kid and never cause you any problems!

Sound familiar? What’s a parent to do? It gets really tiring to fight about these things all the time. Many parents will negotiate.
• Ok…you can drink with your friends so long as you do it here at home and I drive everyone home or they stay overnight.
• Ok, you can stay out till 2 am.

Some parents give in because they feel it’s a right of passage. For others, it’s easier to ignore. Some feel their child is entitled to be above the law and lastly, some parents feel they will alienate their child if they constantly fight over these freedoms.

Remember, your job as a parent is to be the parent, not their friend. Friendship will come further down the road but right now they need your guidance. You are not alone on this road to freedom…..we are here to listen, point you to support groups, behavioral specialists and counselors.

Remember too, that your teen’s teachers are dealing every day with the attitudes your teen is allowed to display. It is important to support your school’s teaching staff and back them up. If your child is having a hard time with just one teacher, it may be a personality conflict between the two of them. On the other hand, if you are hearing from several teachers about your child, you probably need to consider it may be your child.

It is important to teach your child to respect those in authority over them. It is even more important to teach them conflict resolution. While none of us like having our children deal with a teacher they don’t like, use it as an opportunity for them to learn how to deal with difficult people. Later in life they will have encounters with difficult bosses, neighbors or strangers.

Set limits on how much freedom to give/not give your teens with cellphone texting and spending time on YouTube or Facebook. You should always be one of their “friends” on the social network scene. Computers should be in a public part of the house and not in your teen’s room. Remind teens too that their private areas should remain private---not something to be shared via a camera phone and potentially used against them by a disgruntled friend.

Don’t let your teen get caught up in the “entitlement” trap. Not allowing your teen to struggle teaches them that you will always be there to rescue them. You might have to choose what you want for your child….for them to learn a sense of accomplishment or entitlement?

We know we’ve touched on some very sensitive subjects here. Our intent is not to judge, point our fingers or think all teens are problem kids. We are parents too who deal with the same situations in our own lives. We wish we had a magic wand to make problems disappear. But until one is invented we are here to help you and to help your teen and to let you know you are not alone.

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