|Parents Matter: Tips for Raising Teenagers
(Part One) (Part Two)
for the White House conference on teenagers by:
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
National Campaign Against Youth Violence
Office of National Drug Control Policy
U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
parent is one of lifes most challenging - and rewarding - responsibilities.
But the parents of teenagers may have the toughest job around. Adolescence
is the journey from childhood to adulthood, from relying mostly on the
judgment of others to learning how to make responsible decisions independently.
It can be a difficult transition for both teens and their parents, especially
in a society in which young people are confronted daily with the serious
risks that come with sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, smoking, and school
failure - risks that science and common sense tell us are often related.
Because the various risks teens face are so closely connected, so too
are the solutions.
easy for parents of teens to believe that theyve lost their influence
over their kids once they reach adolescence. The power of peers and
the media can seem overwhelming. But research and experience both make
clear: parents do matter in the lives of their teens. Teenagers need
support, guidance, and caring from their parents as much as younger
children do. And teens themselves say they want to hear from their parents
about the challenges they face growing up, even if they dont always
act like it.
of the organizations that have helped develop this publication has a
different focus, we offer many of the same messages to parents. Parents
can do so much to foster their kids talents and skills and guide
them toward healthy development. Parents can also shape the communities
their children grow up in. Whether youre concerned about drinking,
drugs, violence, trouble in school, smoking, or sex (or all of the above),
the best advice for parents is the same: stay closely connected to your
teenage sons and daughters. The following ideas can help parents make
a difference in the lives of their teens.
time with your children and teens. Spend time with your kids, engaged in activities that suit their ages
and interests. Shared experiences build a bank account of affection
and trust that forms the basis for future communication. Eat together
as often as you can. Meals are a great opportunity to talk about the
days events and to grow closer with your children. Use the time
for conversation, not confrontation. Read, watch TV or movies, and
surf the Internet together. Exercise or play sports as a family. Get
involved in community service with your kids.
teens gain a sense of self-confidence. Self-confidence
is earned, not given. Give kids opportunities to learn skills and
gain confidence. Offer praise for jobs well done, accentuate the positive,
emphasize the things your children do right. If they fall short, suggest
ways to improve; dont criticize. Affection and respect will
reinforce good behavior (and change bad) far more successfully than
fear or embarrassment.
your teens to get involved in fun, safe, fulfilling activities. Help your children to identify their strengths, talents, and interests
and to find opportunities in which these assets can be developed.
Encourage them to volunteer in the community, join a youth group,
or participate in arts or sports. Itll give them a sense of
accomplishment, connect them to positive peers and adult leaders,
and - not least of all - keep them busy.
your teenagers set goals and understand that they have options for
the future. Help kids understand how the choices they make now can affect their
whole lives. Introduce them to successful people in your community
who can explain what it took to succeed. Teens with long-term goals
for education or work will be less likely to compromise their futures
by engaging in risky behavior.
your kids know that you value education highly. Stay involved
in your childrens education and let them know it is important
to you. Explain to them how their education will reward them later
in life and why it is so important for them to take it seriously now.
School failure is often a warning sign of other problems. If you notice
a drop in performance, talk to your teen and his or her teachers immediately.
involved with your teens schools. Parents are often very
connected to their childrens elementary schools but disengage
as the kids get older. Try to stay involved right through middle and
high school. Pay attention to the classes your teens are taking and
the homework they are being assigned. Join the PTA or another parent
organization. Volunteer to be a tutor, mentor, or guest lecturer.
Meet your teens principals, teachers, counselors, and coaches.
Attend back-to-school nights, student exhibitions, plays, band and
chorus recitals, and sporting events. If you dont show up, your
kids will be the first to notice.