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Parents Assume You Outrank Peer Pressure

Your child can adopt a new dress code and lingo to fit in with friends, and still remain keenly aware of your thoughts and opinions. "Parents’ influence is much more powerful than most parents realize," says Tom Hedrick, founding member of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "Not wanting to disappoint their parents is an important barrier to teens using drugs."

Take Time to Connect and Talk With Your Teen

Being a teenager is often a dance of push and pull. "Adolescents want to be independent and dependent at the same time," says Benjamin Siegel, MD, pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on the psychosocial aspects of child & family health. "On one hand, they want to assert their independence. On the other, they need their parents."

Your teen probably feels intense pressure to fit in. She may not know how to talk about it. She may not talk much at all. It may take extra effort to connect with her, but chances are she hopes you will. "The more we understand what kids are going through, the more empathic we can be towards them," says Siegel.

Be the 'Bad' Guy

Your rules and structure give your teen a framework for understanding the world, even if he protests. When Wallace asks teens what their parents could do to discourage drinking, the answers were surprisingly simple:

  • Talk to us. Teens say they want to know what their parents think and how they make decisions.
  • Punish us. Teens who break rules typically wait to see what happens. If there are no consequences, the rules don’t matter.
  • Limit overnight visits. Not having to go home can be too much freedom to handle.
  • Wait up for us. Knowing they have to face mom or dad, or both, in a few hours makes most teens think twice about the shape they’ll be in when they get home.

Encourage Your Teen’s Opinions

Raise your child to have opinions, even if they drive you mad, says Rachel Fleissner, MD, a member of the workgroup on consumer issues for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. An opinionated child has practice speaking his own mind.

Fleissner tells the story of an opinionated young patient whose parents were fed up with his mouthing off. "The child is entitled to his opinion. That doesn’t mean things are always going to go his way," she says. "He needs to learn to think through how he arrived at his opinion and whether it’s worth arguing over."

Preparing for Middle School

Tips to help your tween cope with this exciting but risky time.
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