Although adolescents are growing and experiencing changes emotionally, physically, and psychologically, which will ultimately lead to adulthood, the growth they are going through can be a burden and even a weakness.
The teen brain is exploding with new connections leading to a strong curiosity and an abundance of creativity. However, the underside to this growth is that the teen brain isn’t yet prepared to make decisions based upon logic and reason. Instead, teens tend to be impulsive and make their decisions based upon emotions and passion.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t have to stop their ability to make the right choices for themselves. Teens still have the ability to know right from wrong. They can use their intuition and know what situations might be dangerous or lead to trouble. However, they might need the help of their parents. For this reason, the following list includes ways that parents can support their adolescent children in making responsible choices.
Of course, having a relationship with your teen such that he or she feels safe enough to come to you with problems is important. That’s the beginning. If you don’t have this kind of relationship, it might be worth it to call upon the support of a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychologist to strengthen the parent-child relationship.
If you already have a strong relationship with your teen, he or she will likely want to come to you with challenges. Whenever your teen does this, make the most out of the opportunity! The way you respond to him or her will have a significant impact on whether or not you teen feels comfortable coming to talk to you in the future.
The following is a guideline to use when your teen comes to you and wants your support. It’s important to remember you want to convey to your child that you want to help but don’t make the decision for your teen. Instead, your role is to facilitate his or her ability to make the choice that is right for them.
- Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
- Ask how he or she feels about the problem.
- Ask questions open ended questions, which help to avoid “yes” or “no” responses. These questions usually begin with “how,” “why,” or “what.”
- Listen deeply to not only the words your teen is expressing but also what he or she is communicating beneath the words. You might pick up on a feeling or an insight about the way your teen looking at the problem.
- Try to put yourself in your teen’s shoes to understand his or her thoughts.
- Talk with your teen about the choices or options that might be available.
- It’s common for children to believe they don’t have any choice in the outcome of difficult situations. However, you can help your teen uncover alternatives that may be smarter, more responsible options. You might be able to point out options that he or she hasn’t yet seen in the situation.
- Define what constitutes a safe or smart choice. Help your teen understand that their health and safety is important. Often, a choice that is going to protect one’s safety is always important to consider in decision-making.
- Empower your teen to make the best decision by laying out and identifying the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
- How will the results affect your teen’s goals and desires? For example, how would smoking affect playing on the soccer team? Or how will drinking on Friday nights affect his desire to practice football on Saturday morning?
- Without lecturing, allow your teen to notice the various consequences of different choices.
- Allow your teen to make a decision and carry it out.
- Ask if your teen has a plan.
- Recognize that your teen may make different choices than you would prefer.
- After your conversation, find out how things went.
- What did he or she learn from the decision?
- Allow your teen to live and learn from mistakes.
- Praise your teen when he or she makes a good choice.
It’s never easy to witness our children making choices that are not good for them. However, empowering them to make their own decisions is the best medicine they can receive for becoming a responsible adult.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Sutter Health. Helping Teens Make Responsible Choices. Retrieved on November 16, 2014 from: http://www.pamf.org/parenting-teens/emotions/responsible-choices/choices.html