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Teen Risk Behaviors Bad, but Better

Survey Shows Downward Trend in Most Behaviors That Threaten Teen Life, Health

Even Good Teens Take Risks -- What Parents Must Do continued...

"Parents, I say stay close to your children. Know your kids the way you know your best friend, and keep in touch with them," she says. "Spend time with them, know their friends, and know the parents of the children your children hang out with. Say to them every day, 'Did you have a difficult day? What's going on with you? How are you doing?'"

It's probably not news that teens can be moody, even surly at times. Your teen may respond to your inquiries with something like, "My life is none of your business."

Not so, says Cahir.

"Every parent has the right to say, 'It is too my business,'" she says. "Parents sometimes shy away from being more involved because they don't want to seem intrusive. But it is their business to know whom their child hangs out with, to know whether the child is in distress, and to help their children through these difficult times. Sometimes kids don't like hearing that, and may respond in defiant ways, but parents must toe the line and say, 'We have a right to know.'"

But Wechsler agrees with Cahir that communication is not only what your children need, but what they truly want.

"As a parent of two teens myself, you tend to believe them when they walk out of the room and don't express any interest in hearing from you," Wechsler says. "But kids really do want that communication with parents. They really do want to hear their parents' values. They really need their parents to monitor their whereabouts and stay in touch and stay a very strong part of their lives."

Cahir says the key to communicating with teens is developing mutual respect.

"Each member of a family should treat the others members like a best friend or at least as a guest in the house," she says. "If you are angry with your teen, or your teen is angry with you, you have to talk it out in a way that is not hostile or aggressive. I've seen some families go after each other tooth and nail and they end up really harming each other."

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