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Summer Parenting Tip

Wednesday, June 05, 2013
By Darcy McConnell, M.Ed.

Schools been out for about a month and the amount of free time teens have is scary and anxiety provoking to most parents. Even more startling is that fact that statistics show that drug and alcohol abuse, along with law violations by adolescents, increase during the summer months. For some teens summer means more time with friends and/or increased sports activities and vacations, but for others it is one endless party. Unfortunately, the reality of what the word “party” means to you and what it means to your teen may be the most frightening realization of all.

Wake up, parents and know what your teens are doing with their friends and where they’re at all times. When I say know, I really mean verify. Don’t take your children at their word because, believe it or not, they will lie in order to get what they want. Contrary to what most parents believe, it’s okay to be nosy and ask 100 questions about what goes on, with whom , and where. Keep in mind defensiveness about these topics and a desire to keep friends isolated from parents may be a sign that you really don’t know what’s going in your child’s social life. Friends are a huge influence on teens, which is why it is important to know your child’s friends.

I’ve given you your reality check, now what? There are a few simple measures that may be taken that could greatly reduce tension between parents and teens and also reduce their risk for engaging in criminal or potentially dangerous behaviors. First, take time with your teen to formulate a very clear set of rules with very clear consequences for misbehavior. Parents seem to be exceptionally good at setting rules and expressing expectations but remain vague about consequences until these are broken or unmet. Be aware that this is most often perceived as “unfair” by your teen. Unfortunately, this form of imposed discipline usually provokes anger and leaves your teen blaming you for the bad thing that has happened to him. Since anger is something many teens already struggle with, it is not helpful to do anything that will produce more of it. Another downfall is that they are unlikely to walk away from the consequence with any real lesson or growth because they have not taken responsibility for their decision to violate the rules or misbehave. Concrete rules and consequences simply place teens in a position of power to control their freedoms.

Keep in mind rules and consequences should be clear and set in advance. It’s a good idea to format these in contract form and have all parties participate in negotiation and sign. Do not make empty threats. Be consistent; when rules are broken, the punishment applies every time. Equally, it is not a good idea to arbitrarily impose punishments. Use forethought and change the contract if necessary, but always explain and inform. These types of contracts work exceptionally well for privileges such as driving or staying out a little later than usual. For example “Because you did/did not ______, you will have to suffer the consequence(s), which are ____________as in the contract”.

Please do not forget that you are the parents and it is your job to teach your children responsibility and accountability. Unfortunately, when young people turn 18, the law does not care whether they have a sense of responsibility or not and will impose consequences.

Darcy McConnell is a therapist at Edmond Family Counseling, Inc. and can be reached at 341-3554.
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