Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sue Scheff: Tips for Parents of Teens from Psych Central by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D

When I decided to hitchhike one day during my high school years, my grandfather was already waiting on the porch when I got home. Radiating disapproval and disappointment, he merely said, “Heard you were needing a ride.” My “driver” had called him as soon as he had let me off. As a girl, I was humiliated and angry (and no, I didn’t try that stunt again). But as a mother of three teens, I have come to appreciate the extra safety that comes from being in a community where people watch out for each other’s kids. As a daring teen, I was lucky to be picked up by a family friend. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I was also lucky to have adults around me who cared.

The story comes back to me these days as I work to keep my own teenagers safe. Thirty-plus years after my own experiment with “living dangerously,” my community is much bigger and much more anonymous. Although I know literally hundreds of people in my town, it’s also true that I don’t know thousands more. My friends and I certainly do watch out for each other’s kids, but our kids don’t always hang out within our social circle. They explore. They meet new kids. They experiment with new behaviors. Needless to say, this is fine if the kids they look up to are on the honor roll and playing basketball. It’s not at all fine if admission to the group means taking drugs, shoplifting, or violating family rules.

Can parents continue to guide and influence their children through the teen years? Of course. But it takes attention and effort. Parenting well in today’s social climate requires even more patience, vigilance, and involvement than when your children were toddlers. Little kids generally have little challenges and problems in a fairly little world defined by you as parent. Big kids have what are sometimes monumental challenges and problems in a very large and exceedingly complex universe.

Parenting teens well requires that we understand that our job is not about controlling them. It’s about providing them with “training wheels” for life — guidelines that give them protection and experience so that they can develop self-control.

Tips for Parenting Teens in Today’s World

Get to know the parents of your children’s friends. This is absolutely the most important thing you can do if you want to have access to your children’s world. When your teen begins to “hang” with a new kid, get the phone number, call the parents, and introduce yourself. Make a point of giving the child a ride home so you can walk up to the door and shake the parent’s hand. As soon as the kids start making plans to get together, touch base with the other parent to exchange information about rules regarding curfew, acceptable activities, and supervision. Responses will range from relief that you are as concerned as they are to resentment that you expect parental support and involvement. Parents who are like-minded are going to become part of the support system that keeps your children safe. Parents who either don’t care where their kids are or who think it’s absolutely fine for them to be unsupervised and doing drugs aren’t going to respond well to being asked to be responsible. You may be dismayed but at least you will know where you stand.

Communicate regularly with those parents. When teens make plans that involve staying at another teen’s house or getting rides to events with other parents, make sure that you have a parent-to-parent communication at some point in the planning process. Make sure that it is really okay with the other parent that your child is sleeping over. They may not even know of the plan! Conversely, make sure that the other parent knows if you are driving their children or dropping them at an event. Again, check for agreement about the level of supervision.
Establish the “Three W” rule. Teens need to tell you where they are going, who they will be with, and when they will be back. This is not an invasion of privacy; it’s common courtesy. Adult roommates generally do the same for each other. You don’t need minute details, just the broad strokes of what is being planned for the evening. If something comes up, your child can be located. People engaged in “legitimate” activities don’t need to hide their whereabouts.
Respect privacy, but refuse to accept secretive behavior. It’s important to your teen’s developing sense of independence to have some privacy, but he or she must learn the difference between privacy and secrecy. Your kids do have a right to talk with friends privately, to keep a diary, and to have uninterrupted time alone. But if your teen starts being evasive, get busy. Calmly, firmly, steadily insist that you have a right to know who their friends are and what they are doing together. Talk to teachers about who your kid’s friends are as well and start to build alliances with their parents.

Talk regularly with your kids about their choice of friends. Kids often don’t realize that they’ve fallen in with bad company. They like to think that they see something positive in a kid that everyone knows is bad news. They may be drawn to the exotic, the different, the risky. They are teens, after all! And part of the job of adolescence is learning how to judge character. Keep lines of communication with your child open so that you can talk about their relationships.
Support your child’s positive involvement in a sport, art, or activity. Generally, kids who come through the teen years unscathed are those who have a passion about something and who develop a friendship circle around it. This could be the football team, the dance studio, the skateboarding club, or a martial art dojo. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but what does matter is that you get involved. Provide rides. Watch practices, games, and performances. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or a lot of money to let your teen and his or her friends know that you care. Bring the whole team popsicles on a hot day or hot chocolate on a cold one. Let your child and his or her group know that you are willing to put your time, money, and energy into supporting healthy activity.

Help your child get a job. If your child spends too much time at loose ends and doesn’t have a sport or an activity, at least get him or her working. A job teaches life skills, eats up idle time, and helps kids feel good about themselves.

Act swiftly and certainly when something unacceptable happens. Your son isn’t where he said he would be? Go find him. Your daughter’s friend invited a boy into the house when she thought you had gone to sleep? Get dressed and take everybody home. Your kid comes home drunk? Put him or her to bed for the rest of the night, but deal with it first thing in the morning. Be consistently clear, kind, and definite in response to unacceptable behavior and kids will see that you really won’t tolerate it.

Model adult behavior when you are in conflict with your teen. Whatever you do, don’t yell, threaten, preach, or “lose it” if you don’t like a behavior, a friendship, or how your child interacts with you. You will render yourself totally ineffective with your teen. Your child will take you far more seriously if you insist that the two of you focus on managing the problem instead of yelling at each other.

Remember that your influence depends on your relationship with your child, not your power. You can’t make your child do anything at this stage in life. It won’t help to make threats, to lose your temper, or to try to “ground” or punish a teen. In fact, these tactics tend to spur kids on to greater rebellion as they try to assert their independence.

My grandfather was a proper New Englander: quiet, somewhat stern, and unfailingly kind. I knew that he loved me. Even more important, I knew he trusted me to do the right thing. The reason I didn’t hitchhike again during my teen years was not because I was caught or because I was punished (I wasn’t). I didn’t push my rebellion further because I wanted the respect of my grandfather much more than I needed to demonstrate that I could do what I pleased.

What's Related

Other articles by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Should Parents Stay with Their Children in Therapy?
Parents Can Help Teens Reduce Sexual Risk-Taking
Parenting Angry Teens
Tips for Talking to Students About a School Shooting
Teenage Anger
Teen Depression Symptoms
Your Teen’s Search for Identity
The Birds and the Bees: Talking to Young Teens About Sex
Teenage Depression
10 Tips to Build Resilience in Teens and Young Adults

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Parent's Universal Resource Experts: Sue Scheff Talks about Parent Empowerment!

Parent Empowerment!

Are you at your wit's end? Completely frustrated, confused and stressed out over your child’s behavior? Are you questioning where the child you raised with values went? It is time to empower yourself with information that can help you take control again.

So many parents are desperate to find resolution and peace with their out of control teen. They feel helpless, hopeless, scared, exhausted, and bewildered where this behavior came from.

Many teens are suffering with low self esteem, depression and other negative feelings that are making the act out in defiant ways. For more information on Teen Depression. It is important to try to resolve these feelings before they escalate to worse behavior, including substance abuse and addiction, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders, self injury, gang involvement, etc.

These teens are usually very intelligent and capable of getting Honor Roll grades, however are not working up to their potential and lack the motivation to succeed and do well. This can stem from peer pressure combined with the teen’s feelings of low self worth. It is one of the most common trends today – highly intelligent teens making bad choices. Are you telling yourself;

“This is not my child,” yet soon realize that it is and you must take control of an obvious out of control situation.

As a parent that has experienced and survived a troubled teen – I am introducing “Parent Empowerment” to help you take control of your family again. My goal is that you will learn from my mistakes and gain from my knowledge.

Do you think you are alone? I can assure you, that there are many parents that are in your same situation – and feeling the same frustrations.

Let’s look at things we have tried – and I am confident many of you will see the familiarity with these consequences:

Remove privileges or place restrictions on cell phones, televisions, computers, going out on weekends, friends, phone time at home, etc. In today’s society, although these should be privileges, most are considered normal necessities of a teen’s life. This can be related to entitlement issues.

Click Here

Many instances even if you have removed the privileges, the child knows he/she will eventually get them back, and find other means to communicate with their teen world.

Change schools – How many times have we believed if we change the school the problems will go away? Maybe in some cases, however these issues will follow your child into the next school environment. The problems may be masked in the beginning, but in most cases, the trouble will soon arise again. Changing schools, although may temporarily resolve some problems; it is rarely the answer when teens are emotionally struggling.

Have your child go live with a relative out of state? Wow, this is very common, but the other similarity is that in many situations it is a short term resolution before the family is calling and saying they can’t do it any longer – you need to find another alternative for the teen. This can be traumatic and stressful for both families involved and cause friction that could result in more negative feelings.

How many families have actually moved? Believe or not, parents have looked for job transfers or other avenues to try to remove their teen from the environment they are currently in. So many of us believe it is the friends, which it could be, however as parents we need to also take accountability – this is not saying we are to blame, but we need to understand that our children are usually not the “angels” we believe they are. Sure they are athletic, played varsity sports (football, track, golf, swim team, dance etc.), musically gifted, or other special talents as well as were in all advanced placement classes – but reality is, if you are reading this, this has changed.

Will Seeking a Therapist Help? Yes in some cases it will. And of course, we should all try this avenue first. Unfortunately more times than not, the teens are already a master manipulator and can breeze through these sessions convincing the therapist the parents are the problem. I know many of you have probably already experienced this. The other concern with therapy is that in many situations the one hour once or twice a week can barely scratch the surface of what a family with a troubled teen may require.

Was your child arrested? If your child has committed a crime, chances are they will be arrested. If your child has become belligerent in the home and you fear for your safety or the safety of your family, again chances are they will be arrested. In some cases with first time offenders the charges could be dropped. However if this becoming a chronic problem, you seriously should consider outside help. When a teen is arrested and placed in a juvenile detention center, even for one night, they are exposed to a different element that could either scare him/her or harden them. Teens can learn bad habits in these centers, or potentially worse, make friends with teens that have far worse problems than yours.

Scared Straight Programs or Boot Camps – Are they effective? Many parents will seek a local weekend Scared Straight Program or Boot Camp. In some cases, it may have a positive effect on your teen – a wake up call so to speak; however in other cases it may worsen your problem. Depending on your child and the problems you are dealing with or how long they have been going on, may help you to determine if these types of programs would be beneficial or detrimental to them. Some teens will leave a Boot Camp or weekend Scared Straight program with more anger and resentment than when they entered it. The resentment is usually directed at the person that placed them there – not at the program. This can open doors to more destructive behavior. Personally, I am not in favor of Boot Camps or Scared Straight Weekend programs. A visit to a jail with a police officer, giving the teen the awareness of what could happen to them, may be a better way to help the teen to understand consequences of the current behavior.

These above efforts are avenues parents could try before considering any type of boarding school program. I believe exhausting all your local resources should be the first path. Making a decision to place a child outside of the home is a major decision and one that is not to be taken lightly. It is important you educate yourself – empower yourself with information to help you make the best decision for your child.

Here is a list of questions to ask schools and programs in order to determine if they are a fit for your teen.

Click here:
Helpful Hints:
when searching for schools and programs.

An educated parent is an empowered parent. Parent Empowerment! Take control of your family life again. Visit P.U.R.E. for more information on getting your family extra help.

About Sue Scheff: Click Here