Imagine growing up today: Your best friend got a nose ring, tattoos abound in gym class, and classmates talk about
everything from hairstyles to sexual orientation in Internet chat rooms. Think
about raging hormones, a need to rebel, and peer pressure in your child's daily
life. It's no wonder that teens and preteens have the potential for making
mistakes that could affect the rest of their lives. Some of these mistakes may involve alcohol and drug use or abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, or violence. Your teen may also be dealing with stress or depression.
The world has
changed so quickly that parents may not recognize the pitfalls awaiting their
children. You may be shocked and confused by your child's completely unfamiliar
world. Help your child to make good choices by understanding the daily
pressures he or she must deal with. Don't isolate yourself from his or her
reality out of fear or feeling uncomfortable.
Ask your child to tell you about anything that bothers him or her, such as bullying or a concern about a friend's actions. And have ongoing talks about your child's everyday activities.
Stay involved. Know who your child's friends and
their parents are. And know where your child is and what your child does in his
or her spare time. This doesn't mean you should grill or nag your child.
Instead, show interest and demonstrate that you care about his or her general
- Remember to listen, listen, listen. The best way to find
out the issues your child faces is to keep discussion open and listen to what
he or she talks about. Avoid the 2 Ps—patronizing and
- Support his or her interests. Ask questions about which
subjects and activities excite him or her, and try to expand on them. For
example, if your daughter loves to draw, consider visiting a museum to expose
her to other art forms.
- Don't panic. Just because your child
expresses a desire for something you disagree with, don't jump to conclusions.
For example, if your daughter wants to get a tattoo or a navel ring, it does
not mean she is on drugs and on a downward spiral. If she gets good grades, has
good friends, and responsibly juggles a full schedule, she is likely just
trying to express her individuality—separating herself from her parents by
trying to identify with her peers—and a navel ring is one way of doing that.
Regardless of the solution, attentively listen and try to understand her
viewpoint. Be willing to say: "The problem is ours. We are worried because of
- Seek compromises. Although parents need to set clear
boundaries about what is acceptable to them, older children often rebel against
parental dictates and absolutes. A navel ring may be one way your child tests
his or her limits. As a compromise, you might offer more acceptable ear
piercing or temporary tattoos.
- Set clear limits about the Internet
and text messaging. Email, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites, and text messages are being used to taunt kids or hurt their feelings.
And most kids have Internet access—which virtually brings the world into your
home, including pornography, hate propaganda, and intense advertising. Internet
safety tips for your family include:
- Keep the computer in a shared area where you
can see what your child is doing online.
- Check the Web browser
- Don't let your child use chat rooms. Your child may not
realize he or she is communicating with a predatory adult.
filters or other parental control features and block certain websites.
- Talk to your child about the potential dangers of the
Internet. Get to know your child's online friends. And tell your child not to
give out any personal identifying information or meet with an online
Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years
Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years
Helping Kids Handle Peer Pressure
Helping Your Child Avoid Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol
High-Risk Sexual Behavior
Teen Relationship Abuse
Your Teen's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity