Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues. You can follow him at www.SpeakingofMichael.com
Like many concerned parents, I’ve scoured the Internet reading various parenting websites and blogs on the topics of teen dating and sexuality. Only there’s one difference – I’m not a parent. I’m still young, and my teen years aren’t quite over yet. I think there are some very real things that parents should be concerned about, but also some very big misconceptions still widely held. Many parents have tendencies to overreact without even understanding the lives of their teens, which then complicates matters further.
You’ve probably read an article that starts something like, “Everything’s changed. What you must know-and do-to protect your child.” Articles like this generally have a bad attitude. They start off assuming negative intent. And when you take into account that over protective parenting only causes teens to push the limits further or become hypo-exposed and then subsequently hyper-exposed to the things you originally wanted to shield them from it doesn’t garner much weight as an effective parenting strategy.
Now obviously age isn’t just a number, there is a dramatic difference between normal behavior for a 13 year old and a 17 year old. Parenting, however, is much more effective at age 13 than it is at age 17.
Your Absolute BEST Relationship Guide for Your Teen is YOUR Relationship
If you are married, sit down with your husband or wife and talk to them about your values for dating, relationships, and sexuality. This way you can present a uniform position on the issues that will inevitably pop up throughout your child’s teen years. If your relationship has abusive tendencies or destructive habits, YOU need to set an example and get out. If you do not have a mutual respect between you and your partner for each other’s values, expectations, and bodies, then you CANNOT expect your kids to have one in their relationships either. If you are a single parent, be open about why the relationship failed and communicate clearly and effectively to your teen the lessons they can learn.
Imposing a Curfew is Cool — Tracking Your Kid’s iPhone is NOT
You have to raise your child to be grounded, setting weird rules like making them call from landlines so you can verify their location, or calling other parents to verify their location is anything but grounded. It’s irrational and somewhat immature – treat your children with the same respect you would treat and adult, you can still punish them later if they disobey you, no need to be overbearing.
Your Kids Probably Aren’t Going to Talk to You About Sex
But they are going to go online, Google about it and talk to their friends who’ve had sex or are thinking about it – so do what you can to lay a solid foundation that promotes open communication and a non-judgmental attitude towards topics already uneasy for your children to bring up. This way, when they hear other opinions and read or see other material they will have your initial opinions and values in the back of their mind and hopefully in their foundation for what a healthy relationship is.
The Real World is NOT Like ABC’s ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’
Teens are not all running around having sex and having to marry each other. In fact, in the last five years teen pregnancy has seen a marked decline. Better educational programs, media campaigns, and decreased number of sexually transmitted diseases as well.
Don’t Ignore or Devalue Your Teen’s Feelings
If your teen is talking to you about their feelings you are already better off than most other parents. The fact that they feel like they can come to you and bring these things up means that you have a very good relationship. You should maintain a position of guidance, but only when asked. Sometimes your teen may just want you to listen to them without offering specific advice in return. Usually, they will ask you if they want your opinion on a matter. You don’t want to force your advice on them or criticize them sharply for things they may tell you because you could seal shut the avenue for communication entirely.
As a parent, you may feel unsure of complicated situations and how to respond to them, but remember it’s infinitely more complicated to a struggling and confused teen. Use your values as a guide and tell your children to do the same.