We Know: How to be a Healthy Parent for Your Teenager
A few helpful hints on parenting from former middle school teacher and children's writer Molly Hersage.

Healthy Techniques for Healthy Parents

When a child reaches adolescence her natural thought process is:

  1. Iím a teen now.
  2. I can make my own decisions.
  3. Iím not going to ask my parents for their advice because I know whatís best for myself.

Despite your childís desire to be independent here are five important reasons to be an involved and healthy parent for her throughout her teenage years.

#1 Healthy Parents Establish and Respect Boundaries

Although teenagers may feel as if they have the know-how to act independently, they still need help setting boundaries (see "How to Set Boundaries with Your Teenager") for themselves. They need parental guidance in learning to respect set expectations, especially when decisions effect others. At a minimum, parents have a responsibility to immediately involve themselves in situations where there is an issue of danger or trust (see "When Parents Should Interfere with Their Teenagersí Lives").

#2 Healthy Parents Practice What They Preach

Your behavior must reflect the choices, behaviors, and actions of your own life. Being a healthy parent means initiating a conversation with your child and asking her what she needs from you. Do not wait for her to come to you. You have to approach her. Listen to your child when she talks to you. You must also seek to know your child through many avenues. If other parents, teachers, or friends call wanting to give you information about your child, do not ignore them! Respond immediately! Anyone who has information about your child is a valuable resource for getting to know your teenager, and maintaining communication throughout adolescence. Listen, take notes, and encourage conversations with your children.

#3 Healthy Parents Seek to Put Their Children First

Although your child may not seek you out to be his confidant, you must make him your number one priority. Be warned, conversations you have with your child, as they enter adolescence, can be uncomfortable. Please know this is normal. If dialogue is difficult thatís healthy. Donít stop listening (see "How to Listen to Your Teenager"). Your child needs you. He needs to know you are not too disapproving, judgmental or ashamed to speak to him. He needs to know you love him enough to keep listening. And he needs to know you will tell him when a hurtful decision he has made is an opportunity to be learned from.

#4 Teenagers Do Not Need Their Parents to Be Their Friends

Teens do not need you to be their friend. Every teenager is capable of creating and maintaining good friendships. What she cannot seek out or replace is her parents. Do not-- repeat--do not get sucked into thinking active parents donít pry, donít ask tough questions, and donít demand their child be the most self-respecting, confident person she can be. In fact, the exact opposite it true! Healthy parents are their childís advisor, her confident, and her unconditional support system.

#5 Parents Are Their Childís Guide

Your child looks to you first for guidance (whether you realize it or not). Your child expects you to have a good sense of what is good and bad. You are the first and most powerful influence in your childís life. His definition of right and wrong, human and inhumane, just or unjust, comes from you; not the law, not the TV, not his friends. You.

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