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The Teen Years

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Establishing Reasonable
Structure in a Teen's Life

Teens want structure in their lives. To begin building structure, teens need love and trust. They need to know that their parents are there to give them needed love and support. Teens want to be sure that nothing can shake parental commitment to them—not their growing maturity, moods, misbehavior, nor anger at something they have done. Teens want parents to keep authority while allowing them to make some decisions.

Some ways you can help your teen establish reasonable structure and remain close is by spending time together. Parents often misinterpret the teens increased interest in friends as a disinterest in the family. Teens would like to spend more time doing things with their parents. Watching TV does not count as spending time together.

As your teen matures, it is important you and your teen spend time alone together, one-to-one. Your teen needs time to talk to you alone without any other family member present.

Talk with your teen about his interests and concerns. Make sure you show genuine interest in what is happening. When talking with your teen give full attention to the talk, respond to statements, and do not interrupt.

One way to help your teen become an adult is to let your teen into your world. Sharing your feelings and concerns with your teen is important. Avoid causing needless worry.

We must trust teens. Don’t expect the worst, assume the best. Telling your teen that you don’t like their friends will cause the teen not to bring their friends home for you to meet. If something should go wrong, believe that your teen had good intentions.

It is very important that you treat your teen with respect. Teens need the same civility that adults daily extend to total strangers. Don’t talk down to your teen.

You need to be supportive of your teens. What may be a small problem to you may be troubling to your teen. Teens lack the experiences that adults have had. Let the teens know that you understand how much it hurts when something happens that is upsetting or hurtful to them. As they mature, they can look back at some problems they had and laugh at having been upset by something that now seems trivial.

Don’t let gender alienate you from your teen. The teen’s gender should not determine how you relate to your teen. It is okay for a teen girl to do things with her father and for a teen boy to do something with his mother. It is also okay for the young men to help with the cooking and dishes and the young women to help with the lawn and car care.

The most important things to remember are: talk with your teen, listen to their concerns and offer suggestions when requested. This will give structure to the teen’s life.

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