By Emma Freer
Raising teenagers is hard work, full of challenges, setbacks, and worry. Here to help navigate the parenting landscape is a cohort of experts, each of whom has an educated and thoughtful approach to helping those raising teenagers. Their advice covers a wide range of inevitable subjects, from dealing with failure to setting reasonable expectations.
- Allow for Failure. Madeline Levine, a bestselling author and adolescent psychologist, emphasizes the importance of letting teenagers stumble. She says, “Failing helps teens figure out better strategies for the future without resorting to unhealthy coping skills.” In other words, allowing for failure is a crucial component of raising teenagers.
- Early Intervention is Crucial. Dr. Joseph Lee, the medical director of Hazelden Youth Services, works in part with teenagers struggling with addiction. He says, “Neurologically, all teenagers are risk taking and thrill seeking to some degree,” while “there is a subpopulation that can be even more impulsive and disinhibited with regard to consequences.” As far as this subpopulation is concerned, Dr. Lee offers the reminder to those raising teenagers that “Kids do not have to ‘hit rock bottom’ to get better. Intervene as early as you can.”
- Respond to Comments about Body Image. Claire Mysko manages the website Proud2BeMe.org, which promotes healthy body image for teenagers. For parents (of both girls and boys), an important part of raising teenagers is not to dismiss mentions of poor body image. Instead, Mysko suggests that whenever a child expresses dissatisfaction with his or her body, parents both take the opportunity to talk to their teens and try to understand where the negativity arises from and what pressures are causing it.
- Model Healthy Relationships. Tim Boehnlein, the associate director of the Domestic Violence Center of Cleveland, offers that part of the job of raising teenagers is talking about relationships. He says, “We must emphasize and role model positive relationships where each person’s opinion is valued, personal boundaries are respected, and each person is treated as an equal.”
- Learn the Basics of Social Media. Social media is a huge influence in teenagers’ lives today; as such, raising teenagers includes teaching them how to use technology responsibly. Hilary DeCesare, a nationally acclaimed digital parenting expert, says, “The first step toward responsible parenting in our digital era requires understanding the basics of social media” because only then can parents establish meaningful guidelines.
- Model Safe Driving. Douglas Damerst, editor of the Teen Driving Guides, stresses that a huge responsibility of those raising teenagers is modeling good driving behavior. He says, “What reduces crashes is driving behavior, and that’s more difficult to establish in a teen. The parent coaching is what is going to give good habits and behavior.”
These six suggestions hardly scratch the surface of the challenging work of parenting teenagers. However, seeking out expert advice in the face of parental difficulties is always a good strategy. As they say, “It takes a village” – and it’s certainly no different when it comes to raising teenagers.