NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Staying Involved

Staying Involved

To be effective, parents need to be involved in their children's lives. While this is important at each stage of development, parents need to be especially concerned during adolescence, when their teens strive to gain greater freedom and independence.

Research has shown that an effective parenting style employs a reasonable amount of control and consistency, coupled with parental warmth and support. This type of parenting has been associated with positive outcomes in children. One of the factors contributing to the delinquency of teens is insufficient monitoring by parents. The teen years are a time of rapid growth, exploration, and risk taking. Taking risks provides young people the opportunity to test their skills and abilities and discover who they are. But, some risks—such as smoking, using drugs, drinking and driving, and having unprotected sex—can have harmful and long-lasting effects on a teen’s health and well-being.           Monitoring means keeping track of your adolescent. This practice entails being able to answer these four questions at all times:

1) Who is your teen with? 2) Where is he or she? 3) What is he or she doing? and 4) When will he or she be home?

But how can a parent know the answers to these questions without interrogating your teen each time he or she walks out the door?

Talk with Your Teen

Monitoring means being involved in your teen's life.  It includes being an interested, active listener. Just by listening to the accounts of your adolescent's day, you can show him that you genuinely care about what happens to him. It may only take 15 minutes a day of your undivided attention to learn about your adolescent's daily events. Listen carefully. What classes does she like? How are things going with his friends? What problems is she having? Building a positive relationship will help you monitor your teen's activities without seeming intrusive.

Manage Your Teen's Freedom

Adolescence is a time when youth want more freedom to "spread their wings." As teens learn the process of managing freedom, parents need to monitor their progress. Adolescents should earn their right to more freedom. With freedom comes the responsibility to endure the consequences of choices. As teens demonstrate responsibility at one level of freedom, parents can help them move to the next level by giving a little more freedom.  If your adolescent can handle shorter periods of time, such as one evening alone, then he or she may be ready to move to the next level. Remember, it is the parent's responsibility to decide when the adolescent is ready to move to the next step, and to define that next step.

Set Clear Guidelines

Even though they can handle more responsibility than younger children, teens still need some boundaries and limits. It is important that teens know exactly what is expected of them.

Stay in Touch with Your Teen

If your children are supposed to be home at a certain time, plan to be home at the same time. If you can't be there, call to check on them or have a trusted neighbor check on them. Unsupervised children are less likely to get into trouble if parents keep in touch with them.

Set a Good Example

When you go out, let your children know where you are going, how long you'll be gone, and a number where they may reach you. This provides an excellent role model of considerate behavior.  Have a space where all family members can write down their meetings, appointments, and activities. This helps family members keep track of one another; it also provides a form of communication.

Meet Your Teen's Friends

Much of your teen's behavior will be influenced by his or her peer group. Studies have shown that adolescents who have a lot of unsupervised time on their hands are at risk for developing deviant peer groups. Under the influence of deviant peers, your teen could develop a variety of problem behaviors. Get to know your child's friends; better yet, get to know the parents of your child's friends. Both are a valuable source of information.

As a parent, you face many competing demands on your time. Work or other activities can keep you away from home and limit monitoring of your teen. To help bridge this gap, you can use e-mails, text messages, and phone calls to check in with your teen. You can also seek the support of other family members, friends, and school staff to help monitor your teen’s activities and behavior. Teens that have a variety of adults supervising and monitoring their activities are even less likely to engage in unhealthy and unsafe behaviors

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