time of trial and error, offer open, positive communication
while providing clear and fair rules and consistent guidance. You significantly
influence your adolescent's habits and attitudes, choices, and adjustments to
physical changes. But realize that your child's way of doing things does not
have to exactly match your own.
Help your child identify
important issues and be prepared for increasing responsibilities. Allow your
child the freedom to figure things out in his or her own way within the
boundaries you have set. Parents walk a fine line between respecting a teen's
need for independence and privacy and making sure that he or she does not make
mistakes that have lifelong consequences.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, to children and teens. Learn more.
Promote a healthy body image. Help your adolescent recognize that the media often
produce unrealistic and unattainable images of the ideal body. Stress the
importance of being healthy, rather than looking "skinny" or "buff." Be aware
of the things you say about how you and other people look.
Recognize changing sleep patterns. Rapidly growing and busy adolescents need a lot
of sleep. Beginning sometime in adolescence, your child's natural sleeping
pattern may gradually shift. Many adolescents start going to bed later at night
and sleeping in. This pattern can make it hard to get up for school. To help
your adolescent get enough rest, discourage phone and computer use and TV-watching after a certain evening hour.
Help your teen who is using drugs or alcohol. If you believe your adolescent is using drugs or
alcohol, talk about it with him or her. Discuss how he or she gets the
alcohol, tobacco, or drugs and in what kind of setting they are used. Seek
advice from a doctor if the behavior continues.
Address problems and concerns. Building
trust gradually will help your adolescent feel safe in talking with you about
sensitive subjects. When trying to talk with your adolescent about problems or
concerns, schedule a "date" in a private and quiet place. Be ready to deflect
questions you aren't prepared to answer, and make sure to follow through. For
example, you may say, "You know, this is so important that I need a little time
to think about it. Can we discuss it later?" Then set a specific time and place
to further discuss that issue.
Prevent involvement in violence. Be a good role model
for how to handle disagreements, such as by talking calmly. Help your child
come up with ways to defuse potentially violent situations, such as making a
joke or acknowledging another person's point of view. Praise him or her for
successfully avoiding a confrontation, such as by saying, "I'm proud of you for
staying calm." Closely supervise the websites and computer games that your
child uses. Talk to your child about healthy relationships. Dating abuse is common among preteens and teens. For more information on teen violence, see the Other Places to Get
Help section of this topic.
Recognize the warning signs of suicide. To reduce suicide risk, prepare your child for the emotional
upheavals that sometimes occur between the ages of 11 and 14 years. Offer
suggestions on how to handle feelings of inadequacy or sadness, such as keeping
a journal, volunteering, and getting adequate rest and exercise. If your child
shows signs of
depression, such as withdrawing from others and being
sad much of the time, talk about it and get help from a doctor if it does not
improve. Also call your doctor if your child ever mentions suicide or if you
are concerned for his or her safety. After
puberty, depression occurs twice as often in girls as