Parents can't be expected to know it all. "How do I help my teen with this?" is a question that passes through my mind several times a day, at a minimum.
Thankfully, there are people sharing valuable wisdom for those circumstances in which we aren't experts. Here are some "how to" articles that I've read recently and found helpful.
How to Help Teenagers Manage Risk by Jill Suttie on Greater Good
This is an interview with Jess Shatkin, the author of the new book Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe. He offers this advice to parents of teens:
"One thing you can do is recognize that kids are driven by reward and that positive reinforcement works better than punishment. So, what parents want to do is identify things their kids want and steer them towards that.
I give an example in the book of an oncologist I know who can’t get teens to take their leukemia medicine, even though she tells them they’re going to die if they don’t take it. You want to flip that on its head. Ask teens: 'What do you want? Do you want to drive one day? Do you want to get laid one day? Here’s what you’re gonna have to do to survive so you can do those things.' And maybe not say 'one day.' Maybe there is something to do tomorrow, like going to the amusement park or going mountain climbing—something engaging for them."
How Parents, Teachers Can Help Teens With Loneliness by Alexandra Pannoni on U.S. News
Loneliness is a universal feeling that everyone experiences at various points but it's something that can be particularly painful for teens.
"Parents should model for their kids how they deal with loneliness instead of sharing stories about what happened to them in high school, says Julie Carney, a licensed clinical social worker at Wood River High School in Hailey, Idaho.
Perhaps parents like to go for a walk when they feel lonely – they could share that with their child, she says.
Parents should know being a loner isn't necessarily a bad thing either – everyone is different, Carney says. 'Be careful not to make them feel like there is something wrong with them, like there is something weird.'"
How to Talk to Teens about Love by Kat Lonsdorf on NPR
We educate teens about a lot, but there isn't a lot of discussion of romance ed, or rather, what goes into creating loving romantic relationships. To help parents with that discussion, NPR interviewed Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor in Washington, D.C., a licensed clinical professional counselor and the mother of teens.
"A lot of parents are teaching their kids about the mechanics of sex and birth control, and they're talking about those physical risks. But they're not talking about the emotional risks, the emotional vulnerability that comes with entering a relationship — that they might get their heart broken, for example.
And parents don't have to go into the really personal with their child. They can also look to the media when they notice an inaccurate portrayal of love — whether it's on a TV show or a movie. They can talk about how they see that relationship on TV and how they see it as not accurately portraying what real life relationships look like."
How to Raise Kids Who Are More Tolerant than You Are by Maryam Abdullah on Greater Good
The author of this post reacted to a political sign in a friend's yard, and that prompted her to write this piece and answer questions around the topic of avoiding programming kids to this badly of people they don't know and keep open hearts so they an make up their own minds about civi issues.
"Generalizations may lead kids to view people from one group in all the same way, as fundamentally different from them. Rather than use language that sharpens an understanding of themselves as essentially different from those in other groups, parents can highlight the idiosyncratic traits that make them human.
For example, if you disagree with something a single political figure says, then you may point out to your kids that this view is that of one person, and may not represent everyone who belongs to that political party. Replacing broad-brush language with words that highlight finer details can help kids to perceive diversity within a group."
And for a bit of humor: How to Write Your Teen's College Essay by Stephanie Loomis Pappas on McSweeney's
"Most college essays cover too much ground. 300-500 words is simply not enough room to showcase all of your teen’s accomplishments. So don’t write about how he learned everything from his parents, despite how true that may be. Instead, write about one specific lesson you taught him. Extra points if it involves your teen’s struggle to overcome your helicopter parenting."
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