Be an Involved Parent
Show interest in your teenager's activities and friends.
Talk openly, honestly, and respectfully with your teenager.
Set clear limits and expectations.
Know what's going on at school and after school.
Teach your teenager how to safely avoid violence.
Teenagers are no longer children, but they are not yet adults. While teenagers are developing more independent thoughts, feelings, and values, it is only natural for them to question their parents' rules, beliefs, and expectations. During this time of change, parents often worry about their teenager's safety.
Encourage independence while teaching safety.
As teenagers are testing their new independent roles, it's not an easy time for parents. But if teens don't get love, security, and a feeling of safety from their family, they might look elsewhere, even toward friends who are a bad influence, such as gang members. One of the best ways parents can help their teenagers stay safe is to teach them how to avoid violence.
Talking with your teen is one of the most important things you can do to help keep your child safe.
Good communication—talking and listening—with your teenager may be the most important part of your relationship.
Since teens are forming their own identity and testing limits, some conversations may lead to disagreements and become uncomfortable. Your goal is to have open, respectful, and honest conversations. Teens need to feel loved and that their point of view is respected, even when you disagree.
Positive communication gives teenagers a chance to:
Learn how to talk honestly and respectfully with others, even when they disagree.
Feel more confident in discussing their needs and feelings.
Know that a positive attitude can keep them safe and out of fights.
Make a habit of talking about whatever makes your teen happy.
No matter what your teen's interest—sports, music, clothing, TV, video games, friends, school—ask questions and learn what's going on.
Try to eat together whenever possible.
Mealtimes are good times to talk and listen.
Answer questions directly and honestly.
If you have made a mistake, admit it.
“I'm sorry” are very powerful words for a teenager to hear from parents.
Notice your teen's feelings.
“You seem upset about your relationship with
Be aware of your own reactions and emotions.
Teenagers are great at saying or doing things that annoy their parents. Take time to think about your responses and decisions to your teen's requests.
Offer your opinion without lecturing or judging.
Know that you may hear something with which you disagree. Avoid statements like, “That's stupid.” or “You're wrong.” Try saying, “I hear you, but this is how I see it…”
Give all of your attention.
If the phone rings, don't answer it. It also is difficult to talk while doing other things, like watching TV.
“Is there something I can do to help?”
When Talking is Difficult
Yelling, threatening, blaming, and name-calling can only make matters worse. Sometimes teens just don't want to talk with their parents.
Consider helping your teen find other caring adults who share your values. It may be easier to hear advice from one of these other adults.
Keeping Your Teen Safe
Know where your child is after school.
The most common time for teenagers to get into trouble is between 2:00 and 6:00 pm. If not supervised, this is often when teens fight, use drugs, and have sex.
Talk with your child about carrying a weapon.
Carrying a weapon makes people feel bold, leading to foolish behaviors. Carrying a weapon gives a false sense of protection and makes your teen less safe.
Teach your child that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to fight.
Most young people hurt in fights have been fighting with someone they know. Teach your child how to resolve problems without fighting. Your example is the best way for your child to learn this.
Let your teen know that it is more important to know how to walk away from a fight than how to win one, and that it is possible to stand up for yourself without fighting.
When your Teen May Need Help
Your teen may need help if you notice any of the following warning signs:
Not talking, or a change in communication style
Feeling down most of the time—losing interest in friends or activities
Change in school performance, skipping school, or maybe even dropping out
Trouble with the law
If you or your teenager needs help, please contact your pediatrician.