How to Keep Your Teenager Safe and Happy

Good communication and clear rules help kids navigate the teen years.

By FamilyTime


There comes a time in every parent’s life when he or she realizes their sweet, innocent school child has crossed the line and entered the teenage years. Generally a change is apparent when they enter middle school and then again — and with greater impact — when they go to high school.

Make no mistake: These are wonderful years, and every bit as rewarding for the parent-child relationship as the earlier decade, but they are also fraught with some peril. Will my child experiment with cigarettes? alcohol? drugs? are questions every parent asks. Will they drive too fast, let their schoolwork slide, fall in with "the wrong crowd?" While there are no definitive answers, there are ways parents can protect their kids and make it less likely that they will head down a potentially dangerous path.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Keep talking. Your sunny fourth grader may have morphed into a sullen seventh grader, but the more you talk to him, the better. Insist he participate in family actives, such as nightly dinners and weekend outings. Expect him to complete chores and be an active member of the family.

Talk to your teen about her friends, her teachers, her studies. Watch TV with your child, find movies and music you both like, compliment her on her clothes, and take an interest in any new pursuit.

Even if your child stonewalls you with very little information, keep at it. Don’t pester him with endless questions, but make it clear you are interested. Everytime there is a glimmer of responsiveness on your child's end, reward him with a big smile and tempered enthusiasm.

Experts say that one of the most prevalent reasons kids give for staying away from alcohol and drugs is that they don’t want to disappoint their parents. They may prefer to chat with their friends, but when push comes to shove, your kids really do care what you think of them.

Keep Tabs

Know your kids' friends. Even if you are not sure you like all their new adolescent buddies, make a point of learning their names. Invite them into your home, make them feel welcome, ask them about their own families and seek out their opinions on everyday issues.

When your child brings friends home make sure you or another responsible adult is present. Never, never let your kids entertain if there are no adults around and never allow them hang out at friends’ houses without adult supervision.

Easier said then done, perhaps, but this is important.

If your son or daughter is invited to a party, call the parents and make sure they will be home. This may embarrass your progeny, but it’s a safety net they might very well appreciate in the long run.

Once your child and his friends start driving, you have fewer opportunities to keep tabs on him. Ask that he stay in cell phone contact with you, that he report in two or three times in an evening, or call when he and his buddies change location.

Don’t hesitate to call or text your son or daughter. Set a curfew and make sure the kids meet it. Give them some rope, but don’t let them hang out to dry.

Keep Them Busy

The hours between the closing of school and bedtime are the most troublesome for teens. It’s tough for a parent to insist that their 15- or 16-year-old come home right after school. They are more apt to want to hang at a friend’s house or go to the mall.

Discourage idle time and instead encourage after-school sports, clubs, and jobs. If they show no interest in these activities, try to persuade them to do volunteer work or to babysit.

Make sure your kids are home before dinner time on week nights. They may object, and you will make exceptions now and again, but if you expect them to be there, they will be. This cuts down on a lot of down time and folds the kids into the family and its activities.

Most kids like being part of their families. Sure, once they reach college age many will move away, but with sound grounding during their middle and high school years, they will have a better than even chance of doing very well for themselves as they enter adulthood.

And they will come home to visit with happy smiles, as well as their laundry!