Being the parent of a teenager brings both joys and challenges. While you’re helping your teen prepare for adult life, at the same time you’re still in parenting mode. What should you be discussing with your teen on a regular basis?
Conversations with teenagers don’t happen on a specific timetable. Take advantage of time spent together in the car, over coffee on a Sunday morning or while watching your favourite television show. Watch your teen’s body language and reactions to gauge her level of interest, and act accordingly. If conversations turn into lectures, they won’t have the same impact.
Trust your intuition
One of the most important things you can teach your teen is to always trust his instincts. That inner voice that tells us when something feels right or seems like a bad idea is there for a reason. Use personal situations as examples to help nurture his ability to trust himself.
According to Health Canada, a caring and supportive relationship with at least one adult is extremely important in helping teens develop into strong and happy adults. The adults and peers your teenager forms meaningful relationships with will have a major impact on the decisions she makes. Talk to your teen often about good relationship building, and point out examples of friendships or romantic relationships that are supportive and nurturing. Model how to be respectful and how to build a meaningful relationship, then give your teen the tools to build them on her own.
Personal safety and well-being
When you teach your child to look both ways before crossing the street or to wear a bicycle helmet, you are forming the foundation for their safety when you aren’t around later. Talk about options for when a situation feels unsafe and how your teen can make decisions without bowing to peer pressure. Use teachable moments from television shows or movies to help your teen see there are always choices.
Talk to your teenager often about what it means to take good care of himself both mentally and physically too. Nurturing a hobby, playing a sport or simply reading a book are all ways teens can balance their sense of well-being. Try to model the same behaviour in your own life.
From difficult classes and making plans to attend university to relationship issues, there is plenty for teens to be stressed about. As they move toward adulthood, teens become increasingly aware of the burdens of adult life, such as paying bills, managing time, working and supporting a family. Talk to teens about coping skills that can help them manage stress. Exercise — think everything from yoga to kick-boxing — is a great outlet for stress. Hobbies, spending time with friends and even just taking some quiet time alone are all coping skills your teen can carry forward into adult life.
What better tool is in a teen’s life skills tool kit than self-confidence? While some seem to have been born confident, it can also be gained along the way. It’s the way she carries herself, her body language and her ability to make decisions for herself. Point out to your teen things she’s doing that exude confidence, and encourage her to develop it in other ways.
As teens move closer to adulthood, they begin to rely less on their parents and more on their peers. Keep the lines of communication open, and touch on important topics often.
More on parenting teens
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4 Ways to talk so your teen listens
How to encourage good decision-making for your teen