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Taming your teen

Awkward, uncertain, rebellious, invincible, self-conscious … you were a teenager once, too, remember? And you went through all the things your child is experiencing right now. What do you need to make sure your family survives this ordeal? Patience, understanding and a sense of humor.

Talking tips

Remember when your teen used to run home from elementary school and tell you all about his or her day? Now, your son or daughter probably heads straight for the bedroom. Some parents are hurt when they discover their teens are no longer telling them all that goes on in their lives. That’s a normal transition, and as long as kids have another responsible adult they can talk to, such as a school counselor, it’s generally a harmless one.

If you’re questioning your teen about his or her actions, make sure you listen to the answers. Teens need to know that their parents want to hear their side. Weekly family meetings where each family member has a chance to speak up may help.

When your teen does something worth recognizing, don’t hesitate to praise him or her. Believe it or not, your child still wants to hear you’re proud.

Ground rules

Communication is important so that your teen knows what’s expected of him or her. Set limits, outline consequences and practice consistency. Allow teens to earn more privileges by gaining your trust.

  • Establish curfews. Find out what friends’ curfews are and use those as guidelines. Let your kids know you mean business by grounding them for violations.
  • Keep teens involved. Encourage your kids to participate in a school-related activity like sports or the school paper.
  • Maintain expectations for grades. If they start slipping, remove a privilege. Tutors or extra help are available for most subjects.
  • Make viewpoints clear. If you won’t tolerate smoking or drinking, or if you won’t allow visitors of the opposite sex in your teen’s bedroom, tell your teen.

Red flags

If your teen is acting stranger than normal—disinterested in appearance, hanging out with a new group of friends, getting into trouble at school—there might be a serious reason. If you suspect drug or alcohol abuse, take a tough stand and seek professional help.

The final challenge

Be a good role model for your teen. For example, you’ll get less of an argument about why they can’t smoke if you kick the habit yourself. Also, get to know your teen’s friends and show an interest in his or her activities: Attend your teen’s baseball game or drama production. Swapping stories with other parents will help you keep your sanity. They are probably experiencing the same teen trauma as you are!