The lazy days of summer are just about gone. For most adolescents, long summer days offer a break from the routine of school and after-school activities.
For many families, the summer months offer more opportunities for parents to initiate meaningful conversations with teens. Summer is a chance for parents to emphasize open communication with their adolescents and support their growing independence.
Positive parent-adolescent relationships are marked by closeness; open communication; and parental rule-setting and monitoring.
According to the Adolescent Health Insider, parents who strive to have close, positive relationships with their adolescents are more likely to have teens that make healthy and safe decisions. Their adolescents are less likely to have sex at an early age or be violent in dating relationships. When these adolescents do have sex, they are more likely to use contraception.
Along with influencing their reproductive and physical health decisions, parents can help adolescents stay substance free. This is true even when parents themselves have difficulty with substance use.
Although evidence indicates that parents who smoke or are alcoholics are more likely to have adolescents who abuse those substances, positive parenting practices and helping adolescents to develop their own self-monitoring skills can override these influences. For example, parents can monitor adolescents’ activities, keep channels of communication open, and help adolescents to set goals and plan how to meet them. Adolescents whose parents strongly disapprove of their smoking — even if the parents themselves smoke — have also been found to be less likely to take up smoking. This parental disapproval has also been found to help counteract the influence of peers on smoking.
Did you know?
Eight in 10 adolescents say that it would be much easier for teens to avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about the topic with their parents.
Five tips on how to be a purposeful parent
1. Take time to listen. Adolescents do not always want advice. Parents can discuss solutions rather than deliver lectures, and use reassurance, encouragement, and support. It is not helpful when parents respond to their adolescent’s concerns by minimizing what the young person is feeling or saying, “you’ll get over it.”
2. Be aware of where adolescents are and what they watch. When adolescents are not at home or school, it is a good idea for parents to know where they are. Also, restricting adolescents’ viewing of R-rated movies, which frequently glamorize alcohol and tobacco use, is an effective step parents can take to reduce the likelihood that their adolescent will abuse substances.
3. Take concrete steps to help adolescents avoid illicit drug use. Being home at key times of the day (such as in the morning, after school, at dinner time, and at bedtime) and reducing access to illegal substances in the home both help. Parents can also: 1) explain why drug use is harmful; 2) communicate their expectations and rules relating to the use of drugs; 3) check in with their adolescent on a regular basis; 4) get to know their adolescent’s friends; and 5) communicate with their adolescents to find out whether he or she is making healthy choices.
4. Eat dinner as a family. By eating meals with their adolescents and helping them to stay active, parents can help teens to eat a nutritious diet and to exercise regularly. However, eating dinner as a family has also been linked to a host of other positive outcomes for youth, including higher academic performance and improved mental health, compared to adolescents who did not have family meals.
5. Pay attention to your own well-being. Parents, especially if they are single parents, can pay attention to their own care. They can include physical activity, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep into their daily routine. Parents can also arrange time to do activities they enjoy alone or with close friends.
• Questions? A support group of adults in our Kaua‘i community have “stepped into the corner” for teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families. E-mail your questions and concerns facing our youth and families today to LaVerne Bishop, executive director of Hale ‘Opio, at email@example.com.