The Teen Years: Ready, Set, Go
If there’s one word that describes the emotions of most parents with children entering the teen years, it’s fear. Why do parents experience fear? Could it be that before their teen years, our children’s lives, health care, schedules, playmates, and values are pretty much under our control? Then, as they pass into the teen years, we realize that, like it or not, their reliance on our direction begins to wane. But fear not. I have great news for you. During the teen years, though you may have ever-diminishing control over your teen’s life, you will continue to have powerful influence.
The years between twelve and eighteen are perhaps the most crucial season of raising children. They are years when parents have tremendous influence to adjust and shore up the foundation they’ve constructed in the early years, as the concrete begins to harden. The teen years are the last opportunity to make sure the foundation is the way it should be. If you’re afraid it’s too late and your teen is beyond your influence, think again!
What makes for highly healthy teens? My experience tells me that highly healthy teens come from parents who know and exercise powerful influence by equipping them to become highly healthy adults. My experience tells me that highly healthy teens come from parents who know and exercise their powerful influence by equipping them to become highly healthy adults. Here are just a few issues you as a parent of a teen are likely to wrestle with in the next few years. As you review the list, begin to consider the huge influence you still have in each of these areas:
*How do I assess my teen’s health?
*How do I begin and maintain conversations about puberty and adolescence?
*What is normal teen development?
*What if my teen is an early bloomer or a late bloomer?
*How do I find the best doctor for my teen?
*How much rest does my teen need?
*Why are teens so fixed on clothes and appearance?
*What’s the story behind tattooing, piercing, branding, and self-mutilation?
*Why are teens’ nutrition habits so terrible?
*How do I handle weight issues with my teen?
*How do I build my teen’s self-image?
*How do I teach responsibility to my teen?
*Is teen suicide prevention important if my kid is normal?
*How do I prevent tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse?
*How dangerous are TV, the Internet, and movies?
*What is the best way to discipline teens?
*How do I nurture safe drivers?
*What if I’m single or our family is blended?
*What do I need to know about teen dating and teen sex?
*What’s the latest information on sexually transmitted infections?
*How can I help my teen postpone sexual activity?
*What’s the deal on masturbation?
*Can homosexuality be avoided and prevented?
*How does a spiritual foundation affect a teen’s health?
Remember that it takes more than knowledge, principles, and skill to accomplish the lofty goal of nurturing highly healthy teens in a highly healthy family. Nurturing healthy teens requires action. This isn’t the time to sit in the grandstands with your arms crossed, watching life unfold for your teens. You need to be standing on the sidelines, much like a football coach, cheering them on every chance you get and sending in the plays that will move your teens down the field toward adulthood.
Walt Larimore, M.D. has been called “one of America’s best known family physicians.” He is a nationally-known and nationally sought after speaker and health expert.