As I was reading over some materials the other day, I came across this article written by the American Academy of Pediatrics and in it was some great wisdom. If you have a teenager in your life, you’ve probably done your share of worrying about the potential risks out there. Alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use. Sexual activity. Dangerous driving. Maybe even the pressures of school, sports, bullying or just them fitting in.
What Teens Face
You’ve probably also worried that you’re no longer the most influential force in your child’s life. Teens are facing a host of intense challenges and changes in their lives, and like to act as if they alone can deal with them. The reality is that teens need (and secretly want) your help and guidance. In fact, now that you have a teenager, your job as a parent isn’t done, it’s just different.
The good news is that most of the today’s teens are thriving. Adolescents today are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit a violent crime or drop out of school compared to their parents’ generation. They volunteer more than ever before and are actively exploring their spirituality. Most are more tolerant and more likely to have friends with different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. Most teens would even say they have positive relationships with their parents, siblings, and friends. In short, they are finding their way, but not without the involvement and presence of YOU, the parent.
Surveys of teens show that they want and expect their parents to play a key role in their lives. They appreciate you and they listen. They remember your advice even when it seems like they’re not paying attention.
That said, the risks facing teenagers today are real. They’re also different for every teen, and they might even surprise you. Did you know that rural and suburban teens are more likely than urban youth to have problems with alcohol or illicit drugs, etc.? And, despite all the warnings about impaired driving, 30 percent of students report that they’ve ridden one or more times in the last month with a driver who had been drinking.
Remember when your children first learned to walk? They often searched for a table or mom’s leg to steady themselves. Perhaps they even panicked if they couldn’t find something to hold onto. You made sure they were protected from things that could harm them if they fell. You stayed close enough to help if they lost their balance but gave them enough room to practice their new-found skill. It was probably a joy for you to see them grow in confidence as they went from crawling to walking, and from walking to running.
Adolescence is a lot like that. Your teens need you close by during this time of exploration or they will find something else to hold on to, just like they did when they were toddlers. They need your help to navigate the barriers. And they need you close enough to openly ask questions and talk about problems, but far enough away so they can begin making decisions for themselves.
Just remember parents, you’re doing a wonderful job, keep at it. Your teenagers love you and need you now and always.