Got a teenager or soon-to-be teenager in the house?
Here's a stark reality check:
- "The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western industrialized world."
- "Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. (More than 50% of teen mothers never graduate from high school. Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.)"
As a parent, it's your job to help your teen make good choices.
Here are three powerful things you can do to keep your teen safe:
1. Supervise dates.
Know where your children are, who they are with and what they are doing, at all times. When it comes to dating, this means supervising your teenager's dates.
"Supervised dating" may seem like a relic from the 1950's, but it's up to you, as a parent, to ensure that your teen's dates are safe. Supervision is THE best way to do that. Sometimes, it's the ONLY way.
So, what does a supervised date look like? It could mean...
- Allowing your older teen daughter to spend time alone in her bedroom with her boyfriend, to give them some privacy, but keeping the door propped open the whole time.
- Taking your teenage son, his date and a group of friends to the mall and reading a book while they get lunch, hold hands and chat.
- Escorting your teen to the movies, with a date, and then sitting in the back row while they sit in the middle section -- to give them a little space, but not total seclusion.
The message should be clear: "Make good choices. I'm right here."
Use your own judgment to decide how much supervision is necessary, but always err on the side of caution. All it takes is one slip-up to lead to an unplanned pregnancy, or some other consequence that could derail your child's entire life.
2. Monitor online activity.
To keep your teen safe, online, remember these 4 words: Supervise. Review. Educate. Block.
Supervise online activity with a tracking app, and situate the computer that your teen uses at home in a visible area, like the living room. Nearly 30% of teens have been contacted by a total stranger, online. Supervision is crucial!
Review your teenager's social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). Often. If you see something troubling, like scantily clad photos of your teenage daughter at a college party, set new rules -- and consequences. Right away.
Educate your teen about the dangers of posting sensitive information online -- like your address, telephone number or last name. Emphasize that information that's posted online is trackable, forever -- even if you delete it. (Tools like the Wayback Machine mean that even deleted info can be recovered by people who really want to find it.)
Block certain sites (like porn sites, adult chat rooms and online dating sites) so that your teen cannot access them, period. SafeGuard is a popular site-blocking tool. If you're unclear about how to block sites, find a friendly computer pro who can help.
3. Set rules and enforce consequences -- consistently.
It's not uncommon for teens to throw caution to the wind and test the limits. They're at that age where they think they know everything, and think they're invincible and that adults are, well... old fashioned.
It's up to you to teach them that risky actions can have serious consequences. And you can help teach this valuable life lesson by enforcing consequences of your own, at home.
Be sure to let your teen know, in advance, what the rules are (for example: you have a 9pm curfew on Friday night.)
Be sure to let them know, at that time, what the consequences will be if they violate a rule (for example: if you violate the 9pm curfew, you will be grounded for two weeks.)
Be sure to implement reasonable consequences consistently -- or your teen will not take you seriously and you'll be faced with one violation after another.
The purpose of these consequences is not to make your teen's life miserable. In fact, ideally, the consequence would never have to be enforced! Its purpose is to discourage poor choices ("I don't want to be grounded, so I'll be home by my 9pm curfew.") Make sure that the consequence is distasteful enough so that it gets your teen's attention, prompting your son or daughter to make a wise choice.
One day, thanks to your firm, loving parenting, your teen will be all grown-up -- capable of making smart, self-respecting decisions without your supervision and guidance.
But until that day, it's up to you to keep your teenagers safe.
They might not like it. They might not like YOU.
But one day, they'll be grateful.
Because you've given them the greatest gift and privilege of all:
A chance at a happy future, unburdened by consequences that could have easily been prevented.
As a clinical psychologist and professional life coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb’s insights have been featured on more than 200 radio shows, 100 TV interviews and too many articles to keep score.
Step into her virtual office and discover how to change your life by changing the way you handle your own emotions.
And while you’re visiting, pick up her newly-released Life Guides on Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Dating & Sex. http://drsuzannegelb.com/life-guides/#teen