* Helping Teens Make Responsible Choices

By Kelli Chambers, MSW, Courier & Press, June 27, 2017 –

The teenage years can be some of the best, and hardest, years in a person’s life.  During this stage of life, teenagers are often faced with difficult situations and struggle to make healthy and safe choices.

It can be challenging (and even scary) for parents to protect their teen from potentially harmful situations.  There are some basic guidelines to follow, however, to assist your child in the decision-making process.

As your child gets older, parenting becomes less about control and more about offering guidance.  According to parenting guidelines on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s website (pamf.org), the more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens tend to become.

Providing a solid foundation of trust and love allows for an open dialogue of sharing experiences and values while spending time together.  It is important to remember it is normal for teens to challenge their parents’ values, beliefs, and practices.  This is an exploratory time for teenagers to develop their own autonomy.

Here are some quick tips to help parents convey their support while allowing the teen to make their own decisions:

  • Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
  • Talk with your teen about choices.
  • Help your teen identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
  • Allow your teen to make decisions and carry them out.
  • Later, ask your teen how things worked out.

Helping build your teen’s self-esteem and self-respect can positively influence their decision-making process. Parents can help by:

  • Allowing the teen to voice their personal opinions
  • Involving the teen in decisions that may affect the entire family
  • Listening to his or her opinions and feelings
  • Helping the teen set realistic goals
  • Showing faith in his or her ability to reach those goals
  • Giving the teen unconditional love and demonstrating it
  • Being supportive, even when he or she makes mistakes
  • Being open and understanding whenever your teen needs to talk to someone

Teens need reinforcement from important adults in their lives.  This applies to the good decisions being made, too.  It helps teens feel they are on the right path.

It is easy to focus on bad decisions being made, but both good and bad decisions need to be discussed.  The best prevention tool is to start early with an open and honest dialogue.

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers