Brought to you by Good Health magazine
When you talk to your teenager it might feel as though you're talking to thin air and they're just not relating to you. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Mission Australia's National Survey of Young Australians 2008, showed that 75 percent of young people (aged 11 to 19) valued family relationships the most, and more than 70 percent of respondents indicated parents were important sources of support.
Because your teen is relying on you, what you say can have either a positive
or a negative effect on their self-esteem, attitude and behaviour. Here are some of the things you should and shouldn't say.
Teens who are comfortable with themselves, their identity and self-image are happier, more popular, and have a better chance of achieving their goals, and being happy and successful adults.
As a parent you can help your teen know and appreciate their authentic self. Acknowledge your teen's strengths, qualities and talents. Build a positive self-image by affirming their unique traits. Encourage self-acceptance in your teen by letting them know you value and accept them the way they are.
'Let's get some exercise'
In an age when computer games and Facebook rule, it's important to encourage your teen to get out and move. Be an advocate for walking the dog (or somebody else's), or taking up a sport, dancing or wrestling. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity can give your teen a mood boost, help reduce stress and feelings of self-consciousness, and can jump-start the process of building muscle and trimming down.
'Let's do nothing'
Teens today are pressured to perform. It's not uncommon for the average teen to have hours of after-school maths, French tutoring, music lessons and sports training.
You want your teen to have a balanced life, so make sure they factor in time to spend with their friends.
Being social and learning to get on with others is an essential part of teen development. It's great that your teen can reach for the stars, but they also need time to recharge. Allowing your teen to do nothing and letting them know it's okay helps them realise the value of finding a work/rest balance.
If you put yourself down in front of your teen you're teaching them it's okay to be defeatist. As a parent you have more influence for good than you might think. Put it to good use by teaching your teen coping skills. Show your teen how you can deal with problems by viewing them as an opportunity to fix it and get it right. Tell them inspiring stories about people who refused to give up in spite of repeated setbacks and failures, and in the end achieved their goals.
'I don't like your friends'
If you tell your teen you don't like their friends, they are going to be all the more determined to hang around with them. Instead of dismissing them, try to get
to know them. Your teen may see an attribute you don't. Be hospitable and welcoming, but make sure they respect your house rules, such as no swearing in the house. By showing interest in your teen's friends you're letting your teen know you're interested in their life.
'I'll fix it!'
When your teen makes a mistake, it's only normal to want to step in and fix it for them. But you're not doing your child any favours by constantly sorting out their problems. Encourage a can-do attitude by asking, 'How are you going to manage this situation? Do you need my help?' Leave final decisions to them. You're letting them know you have faith in their ability to find solutions and, in the process, boosting their confidence.
For the full story, see the January issue of Good Health.
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