Kim Waggoner, LICSW, says that open communication is essential to keep your teens from making bad decisions and engaging in risky behaviors. Even when it seems that the last thing they want to do is talk to you, teenagers need to know that they can speak to their parents about anything from peer pressure to sex.
It is normal for many teenagers to "tune out" their parents and act as though everything they say is exasperating. However, they ARE listening. And it is important that you, as parents, keep talking. Be aware of the risks and pressures facing your teenagers, talk about them, explain your behavioral expectations in relation to them and let your teenagers know that they can rely on you.
Though open communication is key, Waggoner cautions parents to resist the urge to overstep the parent/child boundaries. Open communication means that your child should be able to approach you with any topic and you will be there to guide them appropriately. However, do not offer information your child did not ask for.
"Many parents want to be their children's friend. That is natural. But, unfortunately, that is not their job. Their job is to be a parent, a role model and a guide. When parents try to become their children's friend, they lose their credibility as a parental guide and a figure of authority," says Waggoner.
"In conversations with your children, do not talk about yourself. Instead, let your teenagers guide the parameters of your conversations. It is not appropriate for parents to discuss their own adolescent experiences (e.g. sexual experimentations, alcohol use, etc.) with their children. This brings the parent down to the level of peer."
There are inevitably going to be times when your teenager is going to defy you. It is in these crucial moments that you must remain strong. As human beings, conflict is not easy for any of us, especially when it occurs with people we love. However, remember that you are the parent and it is your job to remain firm, clear and consistent. Make sure to communicate what your child did wrong, why you are upset and what the consequences will be.