Parenting a teenager can be an uphill battle.
In addition to the problems you may have faced in your youth, a new host of issues are presented by texting, sexting, social media and cyberbullying, point out experts.
“Say the right thing and you’ll open up lines of communication. Say the wrong thing and it could lead to a fight or silent treatment,” says Joani Geltman, child development and parenting expert and author of “A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens: Talking to Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out.” (AMACOM).
Geltman offers her “Top Parenting Tips.”
1) Encourage teens to think independently. Restrain yourself from being chief problem solver, so they can make good choices even when you’re not around.
2) Try not to ask a zillion questions. You won’t get the answers you want anyway. Engage them in a conversation on a neutral topic before you start the interrogation.
3) Refrain from going on the “lecture circuit.” Model what it means to be a good person so you don’t need to tell them. They will “get it.”
4) As uncomfortable as it may be, you have to talk about sex. Do it with honesty, and understanding, not judgment. Talk about your own experiences when you were a teen, especially those moments of which you are the least proud so that they will feel freer to share their questions and worries.
5) When it comes to alcohol and drugs, make your house safe. Again, have honest discussions, sans judgment. Help them to anticipate new situations and problem solve about ways to stay safe.
6) Don’t rule with an iron fist. This may have worked when the kids were younger, but teens need to be part of the rule making. Most kids are actually pretty reasonable when given the opportunity to have some control.
7) With their input, set limits with phones, computers and video games. Just like you let them eat only a few pieces of Halloween candy a night when they were younger, you need to see these devices in the same way.
8) Express your appreciation and pride in your teens. Not for the good test scores or grades necessarily, but for moments of kindness and hard work. There’s nothing more important than an out of the blue “you’re a good kid, and maybe I don’t tell you that enough.”
9) Find some fun with your teen. Hang out, watch TV, order pizza, go to the driving range, play a video game, listen to music, go get manis and pedis, bake a cake, take the dog for a walk, go shopping — anything that may give you a moment, maybe just a moment, of sweetness with your kid.
More parenting insights and information about the book can be found at http://joanigeltman.com/.
When it comes to teenagers, the stakes can be high, with scary, emotional and even legal consequences. By being open and receptive, you can help navigate these treacherous waters.