Teens are known for risky behavior. In some respects, it’s completely normal. As teens try and find their way in the world, and as their brains are growing and changing, it’s normal for them to do things without really thinking through the consequences.
The trouble is, there are many mistakes in today’s world that can result in serious long-term ramifications. It’s easier than ever for teens to start smoking, thanks to the electronic cigarette called JUUL, predators can compromise your teen’s safety online, and cell phones make it easier than ever to get distracted behind the wheel.
It’s your job to help your child learn how to navigate the world in a safe way. Instead of yelling or nagging at them to do better, follow these tips for reducing risky behavior that really work.
Understand Your Teen’s Challenges
Before you say or do anything, take the time to understand your teen’s challenges and consider where they’re coming from. Have they recently lost a friend group? Do they feel like an outcast and want to fit in? Are they struggling with their school work, or with relationships they have with teachers at school?
When you take the time to understand your child’s point of view, and maybe even take the time to remember what it was like when you were a teen, you’ll approach any situation with more compassion.
Openly Talk About Common Risky Behaviors
There are a lot of topics that can be hard to talk about with your teen, but those topics are the ones that tend to inspire the riskiest behaviors. Don’t shy away from hard conversations, and bring them up often. Even if they don’t listen the first time around, the repetition will increase the likelihood of them listening later on down the road.
Some common risky behaviors that you may want to discuss regularly with your teen include:
- Using drugs and alcohol
- Risky sexual behaviors
- Distracted driving
- Body piercing and tattoos
- Dating abuse
Once you’ve brought up the topic, it’s time to listen. Really listen to how your teen feels about these topics, and be willing to talk whenever they are ready, no matter how inconvenient the timing.
Develop Strategies They Can Actually Use
Talking is a good start, but without useful strategies, all that talk will be for nothing. Once your child is ready to open up and talk a little bit about risky behaviors that they can relate to, it’s time to start helping them develop strategies they can use to avoid engaging in those risky behaviors.
For example, there are many ways your teen can say no to drugs and alcohol without alienating their friends, as long as they are a little creative. Suggest your teen volunteer to be the designated driver, or if they are in sports, they can say they can’t do drugs because they don’t want to get kicked off the team. If nothing else fails, they can blame their abstinence on their impossible parents!
Make Sure Rules and Consequences Are Clear
Even if you maintain open lines of communication with your teen regarding risky behaviors, slip-ups are going to happen. It’s important to make sure that rules and consequences are clear.
Discipling a teen should never come as a surprise, which means rules and punishments should never be made up on the fly, even if they sound obvious to you. Instead, rules and consequences should be made clear before there is an issue. When your teen knows what to expect, they are a lot less likely to overreact, and they are more likely to accept their punishment without argument.
Accept and Forgive Mistakes
No matter how much you try to help your teen make the right choices, there are going to be mistakes. The fastest way to ruin your relationship with your teen is to criticize them for their mistake, refuse to listen to them, and never let them live it down.
Instead, it should be your job to be prepared for mistakes so you can accept and forgive them when they happen. That doesn’t mean your child should get off easy! But, it does mean punishments aren’t personal, and you’ll be there to comfort them and talk to them about their mistake after everyone has had a chance to cool down.
Having a teen in the house can cause a lot of stress for parents, but it can also be a rewarding experience. Follow these tips and you will slowly watch your child make good decisions in regards to risky behavior.