Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years - Common Concerns
The word "teenager" to many people brings up an image of a wild and reckless young person whose main purpose in life is to rebel against his or her parents. Most teenagers do not fit this description. Of course, there are times when any teenager may be hard to deal with. But many teenagers are trying their best to please parents while they work toward some level of independence.
Parents of teenagers ages 15 to 18 are often most concerned about whether their teens will be able to make good decisions. Parents know that the choices children make during the teen years can have an impact on much of their adult lives. It is normal to worry. But the chances are that he or she is going to be okay. Although your child may sometimes have lapses in judgment, know that you do have an effect on what your child decides, even if it doesn't always seem that way.
Know that you are not alone in these types of concerns. For example, many parents worry about whether their teenager will:
- Resist using or abusing alcohol and drugs (including prescription drugs and supplements such as anabolic steroids). Many teens are exposed to these and other substances throughout their teen years. Offer strategies to avoid tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Set firm, fair, and consistent limits for your teen. Talk about the immediate and long-lasting results of substance use, such as falling grades and poor health during adulthood. Help your teen practice how to respond when a harmful substance is offered, such as stating "No, thanks" and moving on to another subject. Look for community programs led by teens (peer education). And talk to your teen right away if you see signs of substance use.
- Focus enough on doing well in school. Typically, teenagers have many distractions. Friends, clubs, sports, and jobs can all compete for time that could be spent completing homework. Show your teenager how to set goals. For example, talk about and write down a goal for the week, month, and year. Help your teen think about the steps that need to be taken to reach the goal. Work with your teen to make a schedule for when to do each step and set rewards for when the goal is achieved.
- Drive safely. You can help teach your teen about safe driving. But what a teen does when parents are not around is the unknown. Remind your child often that driving is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
- Feel pressured to have sex. Talk about dating and sex early, before the information is needed. Focus on what makes a relationship healthy, such as trust and respect for each other. Also, kids have easy access to many websites with sexual or pornographic content. Keep the computer in a shared area where you can see what your teen is doing online.
- Find a career. Teens need to decide what they want to do as adults to support themselves. Before high school ends, some teens will have a good start on career plans. Most teens start focusing on career plans around age 17 and older. Help your teen find out what interests him or her. Find ways to help your teen talk to people in certain jobs or get experience by working or volunteering.
Try to understand the issues your teen faces. Although you may remember some struggles from your own teen years, the issues your teen faces are likely quite different. Stay involved in your teen's life, such as by going to school events and encouraging your teen to bring friends to your house while you are home. You can better see the world from his or her perspective when you are familiar with it. Also, learn to recognize your teen's stress triggers and offer guidance on how to manage the anxiety they may cause. But be careful not to get too caught up in your teen's world. If you try to take too much control, it will likely only make things harder for him or her.
- Stress Management: Helping Your Child With Stress