Contribution: Dr Vijay Kumar (SWACH), Sonika Baxi

Positive parenting of adolescents- top tips

Try to go back 10 or more years and remember that when your child was born how excited and nervous you were.

Those moments were precious. You then raised your baby through feeding continued interactions and play. Go back to those wonderful times when the child started to sit stand and walk with support. How did the family respond when he/she uttered the first words and the first sentence. You helped your child walk holding his/her fingers. The energy at that time inside you and your child was enormous.

There were times when you were very happy and other moments when you might have felt very low and challenged. Well, that’s wonderful past. You have had a lot of success with few challenges. Recall the endless energy you had when you used to send him to school early in the morning all dressed up with a snack to learn and become disciplined. Now the youngster is neither a baby nor a child. He/she is an adolescent.

The next 10 years are going to be as challenging as the previous 10 years. We would like to remind you that during these 10 years there are very major changes that would occur in your adolescent. There will be enormous physical growth, sexual growth and mental growth.

This is the time when he/she is going to face the world increasingly as an independent person. You have to continue to be supportive. As parents you have to provide opportunities to the youngster to become an independent person according to his/her capacities.

At the same time you have to monitor so that your earlier hard work is rewarded. You have to be ready to support, guide and let go of him/her to learn how to be independent responsible adult, to make sure that your adolescent is not hurt when she/he stumbles and falls.

Do you still encourage him/her, cheer her/him and show your faith. And above all do you still enjoy the process. This booklet is an effort to increase your understanding of your adolescent. It aims to help you as parents to understand the adolescent, educate, guide and support teens better in an atmosphere of mutual respect that gives impetus to him/her positive self-concept and prepares him/her for life.

Tips for positive parenting of adolescents

The adolescent period, age 10-20 years, as defined by WHO, is a very exciting and an equally challenging period in life. This is the period of rapid transition from a child to an independent adult. During these critical 3650 days (10 years), there are plenty of roadblocks and challenges. At the same time, there is plenty of excitement. This is a period full of opportunities for the adolescents as well as the parents to learn and firm up the foundations for healthy and productive life. This is the last opportunity for your adolescent to grow physically. Sexual changes during this period prepares your adolescent to lead a family life. There are rapid changes taking place in the brain and it provides an excellent opportunity to refine the functioning of the brain during this time. This is the time when maximal development takes place in the forebrain. Consequently this period is for mutual benefit, love, happiness and satisfaction. The parents and adolescents should face the challenges together and try to make this turbulent period of life as smooth productive and enjoyable as possible.

In this communication, prominent tips are provided for the guidance of the parents to steer through this crucial period of life so you can deal with their adolescents more effective with a balanced perspective. It is fully recognized that parenting styles are different. These styles can change and be adjusted according to the age in which the adolescent is and how he/she is developing, behaving and maturing. These challenges and opportunities are different for the young adolescents (10-14 years) and older adolescents (15-19 years). Hence flexibility in approach is the key. However, one commonality has to be highlighted at the outset- You as parents need to be kind, firm and encouraging while dealing with your adolescent .It is also important to be aware that these challenges do not begin or end suddenly before the age of 10 years or after the age of 20 years since life is a continuum and it is not compartmentalized.

 

Tip 1: Love your adolescent unconditionally

Parents should continue to provide unconditional love to their adolescents in the same manner as they had done when she/he was a child. This is to be expressed in the form of warmth and affection, support and acceptance, as well as encouragement. The role of parents is changing though the basic principles remain the same. In contrast to parenting of children, parents have a different role in which the connections with the adolescents are maintained but at the same time, it is necessary to build in the adolescent confidence, pride, self-efficacy and self-esteem. This is recommended to help them to mature increasingly in preparation of the role of responsible adulthood.

Parents should try to use all opportunities to express love, affection and respect for the adolescent. They should use this key mantra without any hesitation through appropriate words or gestures.

  • Parental love means providing increasing space to adolescents for privacy, individuality, and accept difference of opinion. The parents should allow their adolescents to spend time with friends and peers. Adolescents should be supported to accommodate rapid changes in their minds and bodies.
  • The love for adolescent can be expressed through celebration of all good performance by the adolescent. This should be done daily and if possible several times in the day. The small wins should be recognized. These wins need not be celebrated in monetary or material terms necessarily. Bribing of adolescent should be avoided.
  • Love for adolescent can be expressed by giving increasing responsibility to the adolescent. This should be progressively increased and made more complex (scaffolding) based on performance. Adolescents should have the confidence that they have parental support and guidance whenever they need it.
  • Love of the parents for adolescent means accommodating their ongoing variable and volatile moods. Parents should understand that these are not intentional but as a result of numerous changes taking place in the adolescent. At these challenging times, parents should show understanding and be ready to provide support.
  • Love by parents means physical and emotional support to fit teens’ changing needs, sensitivities, interests, and activities.
  • These actions should translate into a continuously developing and maturing relationship so that the adolescent feels accepted and approved of as an independent person in the family and is consulted when family decisions are being made. The adolescent should feel that his/her opinion is respected and considered seriously.

Parents should provide unconditional love to their adolescents throughout this tumultuous period. They should spend as much time with their adolescent as possible. All opportunities are to be utilized to acknowledge the responsible behaviour of the adolescent and parents need to be supportive in bad times that adolescent face. Good behaviour should be celebrated as often as possible for sustained practice.

Tip 2 Communicate and connect with your adolescent

Communication with the adolescents whenever there is an opportunity is extremely important so that the parents and adolescent always feel connected. It is this connectedness that both the parents and adolescent require in this age more than at any other age. With changing life styles, face to face communication is becoming increasingly difficult. This problem can be overcome through the use of telephone, internet and other means. Good communication will help build and sustain good relationships with your adolescent.

  • Keep the communication channels open at all times. This means 3650 days in the life of the adolescent
  • Communication is verbal and nonverbal. Nonverbal communication occurs by actions, expressions and body language. It continues to be prominent at this age. It is more than 80% of communication. Parents should remember that a smile goes a long way and a frown leaves a very negative image. These images have a long lasting impact and contribute to psycho social development as well as personality development.
  • Parents should talk less and listen more. As far as possible, adolescents should not be interrupted when they are talking. It is wise to think before speaking especially when there is anger in the adolescent or in the parents. A pause helps to calm down anger (parents and adolescents).
  • Parents should always stay calm. They should not get excited or upset if things are not going right for them or the adolescent. Parents should be prepared for many varying situations they will face when they feel quite challenged and sometimes inadequate to deal with them effectively.
  • The more you talk and interact the better it would be for both the adolescent as well as the parent. There is no doubt that quality matters but here quantity also matters.
  • Help solve a problem together. Solve only one problem at a time. Addressing many problems at the same time will confuse the adolescent.
  • There will be times when the communication breaks down and connectedness may be threatened. Take time think about the reason (s). Allow the tensions to come down before communication resumes again.

 

Remember that as parents your expressions and body language communicates what you think and the tone of your voice has already communicated to your adolescent what you want to tell. Parents should be very aware that a large part of communication with adolescents continues to be nonverbal.

Tip 3 Manage conflict, anger and arguments

Arguments, anger and conflict are very common between parents and their adolescents. Conflict anger and arguments are an integral part of normal adolescent development. Most of the time it is not intentional. He/she is influenced by the rapidly changing body, mind and thought processes. Remember that adolescent is progressively getting independent in all respects. Your adolescent is likely to get angry and upset on trivial or major issues innumerable times during these 3650 days. You as parents have to become experienced and matured to deal with these very common situations. Remember that there will be many times when there would be a one off anger or frustration that has a connection with several interconnected reasons. A good understanding would be required to deal with it.

  • Start simple. First help your adolescent to solve seemingly trivial issues. Solve problems together. This would help the adolescent to get confidence in identifying and solving problems. This capacity has to be increased progressively. It is through the practice of skills to manage these seemingly trivial issues repeatedly that more complex issues are solved by the adolescent. This means becoming progressively more independent and mature.
  • Both the parents must adopt a common and consistent approach for the solution of the problems that lead to anger or frustration even though the parents may disagree amongst themselves. To be able to use a consistent approach, it may be necessary for the parents to have discussions amongst themselves before dealing with the adolescent so that the adolescent does not get confused.
  • Do not try to tackle all the problems yourself. There are always others in the family, your friends or neighbours who may be able to help you to solve the problem. The parents should not hesitate to consult others and take time to think about the resolution of the problem.
  • Pick a good time to solve the problem together with the adolescent. Keep reminding the adolescent that you care for him/her and will always be supportive. Tell the adolescent that you will make an honest effort later on if the problem cannot be solved immediately.
  • It is important to stay calm rather than get excited when a problem occurs. If the adolescent is angry or depressed or stressed help him/her to calm down and relax, breathe deeply and do whatever helps him/her relax.

 

Work together with the adolescent to find a solution and stay consistent to manage anger frustration and conflict. Remind yourself and the adolescent that sometimes there is no immediate solution to the problem.

Tip 4 Set rules and boundaries

Rules are needed by everyone i.e. parents as well as the adolescents. They have to be honoured consistently by all concerned. Rules are honoured and implemented if there has been negotiation, agreement and a contract before setting the rules. Contract need not be in a written format but it must be clearly articulated and understood.

For the adolescent, the contract can be with self, the parents, friends or others. In the context of the family, parents and adolescents should set the rules together. Rules would require negotiation. However, there should be flexibility in implementation. As parents you need to be flexible and the adolescent also has to be flexible. Parents need to remind themselves that if adolescent seems stubborn that does not mean that he/she would always remain so. While setting parents must make sure to tell the adolescent that safety and security of the adolescent cannot be compromised at any cost and this is not negotiable. As far as possible, there should be very few rules and these should be implementable. The parents and the adolescent should monitor and discuss progress for applying corrections if these are needed. Successful implementation of rules should be used to accord greater independence to the adolescent. 

Negotiate important rules and obtain an agreement with the adolescent

  • Flexibility in setting rules is the key where all justifiable aspects demanded by the adolescents are considered fairly by the parents
  • When rules are followed as agreed, it calls for praise and rewards that are immediate and motivating As mentioned, praise and reward may be small but these should be frequent enough for everyone to feel happy. This contributes to a greater motivation.
  • The consequences of breaking the rules should be known to the parents and adolescents and the punishment must be accorded. The carrot and stick policy is important in implementation.

The rules need to be renegotiated once it has been established that the adolescent has matured in following the rules and has demonstrated a consistent behaviour. If the rule has been difficult to observe it calls for rethinking and renegotiation.

 

Setting rules and boundaries is an ongoing process and these must be renegotiated throughout adolescence. The principle in setting the rules is that these would depend on the maturity of the adolescent.

Tip 5 Tackle common concerns and worries of adolescents

Common concerns of adolescents relate to body image, appearance, dress, friends, relationships, emotions, performance in studies, cultural activities, sports, work, independence and a host of other issues. These are related to numerous and rapid changes that occur during this period.

Your adolescent should be comfortable with himself/herself and be open to seeking help from you whenever he/she cannot cope with the worries and concerns. That will happen only if he/she is confident of your support and love. It is important for the adolescent to be confident of self and be convinced that his/her presence in the home matters.

  • You as parents are likely to be upset with your adolescent and it may be several times in the day when you are likely to get upset with your adolescent. Don’t be too critical. The parents should be critical only when it really matters. This would allow space for adolescents to begin to identify and solve problems by self.
  • Parents should be sensitive and at the same time responsive. They can pick up the problem as soon as it is noticed in the form of a worry or concern. Parents should take time out to discuss and help in sorting out the problem as soon as it is detected. If parents cannot cope with it then they should seek help of others. This sensitivity and responsiveness is a very effective behaviour that helps to keep the bond of love and affection and mutual respect in a sustained manner. This sensitive and responsive behaviour was started in childhood and it should be continued throughout adolescence.
  • The adolescents can be very sensitive about the changes that are occurring in them. Parents should not be critical if the adolescent is concerned about the body image or the food he/she eats or the dress he/she wants to wear However just make sure that the concern for body image should not become a compulsion with the adolescent.

The bottom line for the parents is to not allow any threat to physical health or security of the adolescent through a behaviour that will threaten physical health or security. Praise the adolescent for good behaviour and for any consistent independent actions in order to reinforce the development of self-efficacy and self-esteem.

 

As parents anticipate worries, concerns and problems. Help the adolescent to solve them. Seek help if you as parents are not able to solve. Be sensitive and responsive i.e. help to identify and solve the problem as soon as possible.

Tip 6 Help prevent and tackle risky behaviour

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Risky behaviour here is defined as behaviour of adolescents that has the potential for harm to self or others.  As mentioned already, parents should take all possible steps to prevent the practice of risky behaviour in their adolescent at all times and sustaining it. Some prominent examples of risky behaviour include, smoking or use of tobacco, drinking, taking drugs in any form, vandalism, bullying or staying out late at night. Generally there is more than one risk factor and risk factors tend to have a cumulative effect through continued practice. An emerging risk behaviour in adolescents is the excessive use of media, internet, and TV.   

Parents have to be aware that the vast majority of problems are related to cumulation and clustering of risky behaviour. In contrast, there are numerous protective factors and most of the adolescents practice the protective behaviour. Like the risky behaviour the protective factors also cluster and cumulate. It is like a bank balance and all efforts should be made by the parents and the adolescents to lean towards consistent protective behaviour to transit to healthy mature and productive adulthood.

Parents should not accept risky behaviour of their adolescent at any time. Corrective measures are needed promptly and consistently so that the practice of risky behaviour does not become a habit.

Parents need to communicate it to their adolescent that he/she has the full support of the parents at all times, he/she is loved always even though there can be times when the parents are disappointed by the behaviour or actions of their adolescent. Parents should also convince the adolescent that there will not be any compromise with security to the health of the adolescent ever in the home or outside the home.

  • Adolescents should always be talking to their parents. As mentioned earlier, communication should never be interrupted. Communication will happen if the adolescent does not have fear or guilt in his/her mind. There should be a consistent feeling that the adolescent is recognized as a responsible person in the family and he/she is respected.
  • Clearly explain what the risk factors are, in what way they are going to hurt the adolescent personally and in what manner it will hurt others. Personal threat and harm may not be so obvious to the adolescent. Similarly practice of risky behaviour would not seem to be producing any immediate discernible harm (although this is not visible but the harm occurs). In turn, the adolescent should be encouraged to explain what benefits (immediate or long term) the adolescent sees in the continued practice of risky behaviour. The pros and cons of risky behaviour should be discussed openly. This has to be done throughout adolescent period.
  • Many adolescents are aware of the consequences of risky behaviour but they are lured into it because they have the erroneous feeling that no immediate harm would occur to them. This myth needs to be broken and a realistic picture shared with the adolescents. The parents may have to work hard to convince the adolescent. The parents can utilise multi media constructively. Discussing news events relevant to the behaviour should be the subject of discussion. It can help to show them the outcome of risky behaviour.
  • It is also important for the parents to suggest options that might help the adolescent to get pleasure or kick out from an alternative behaviour.
  • The dangers and the bad effects of risky behaviour and harm that occurs immediately as well as on a long term should be understood by the adolescents. They must understand the reasoning and not just remember the facts only.
  • Situations that lead to practice of risky behaviour should be explained and the parents as well as adolescents should discuss what can be done when such situations arise. As suggested, it would help to avoid the situation and the context in which the risky behaviour is likely to occur. Also think of options that might be satisfying to the adolescent and let him/her choose from amongst those options.
  • The adolescents cannot totally avoid risky situations, the parents should help the adolescent to build up the skills progressively and practice these skills. The adolescent should be suitably rewarded to practice positive behaviour. This will not happen suddenly. Adolescents should talk to their parents and recount their experience and should be encouraged to seek guidance from the parents in order to become more skilled. These skills are learnt slowly. Over a period of time these skills are incorporated in the life by the adolescents.
  • Parents should always monitor and keep track of the adolescent and the adolescent must be aware that the parents are keeping a track as a part of the safety net. Parents should always be on the alert when the adolescent may be trying to avoid transparency.

 

The consistent and ongoing avoidance of practice of risky behaviour is a long and continued struggle for the parents and their adolescents The trick is to keep working on building the capacity of the adolescent until avoidance of risky behaviour becomes a habit and adolescent starts to enjoy the alternatives to the risky behaviour.

Tip 7 Allow your adolescent graded independence

Parents need to recognize that no two adolescents are similar. Remember that there are 10 years (10-19 years) during which the adolescent should be getting increasing independence depending upon how much responsibility he/she can handle and manage. The bottom line is that health and security is of prime importance and cannot be compromised ever.

While the adolescent can no longer be protected by the parents like children are, there has to be adequate closeness and protection and at the same time all opportunities have to be provided to the adolescent to be able to develop his/her own circle of influence, start taking independent decisions, manage day to day life without parental support and become progressively confident. The adolescent is acquiring analytical skills and should be encouraged to develop self-efficacy. These analytical skills develop differently in different adolescents but research shows that the analytical skills develop around 23 (can be later or earlier).

Parents should be aware that this is a period of life where consistency should not be expected. Adolescent will want a lot of support and guidance from the parents much the same way as children do. There will be many situations when they will act like an adult in a mature manner. Parents should praise them whenever appropriate to enhance the confidence of the adolescent. With increase in age more maturity will occur and there will be increasing consistency.

Adolescents need to be protected when it concerns their safety and security and at the same time they should be allowed to have their own space so as to feel more confident about self and prepare themselves well for family life, appropriate employment and a life of fulfilment and contentment. The following tips are recommended for consideration by the parents:

Allow the adolescents to make their own decisions and implement them though parents should guide them. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. We all make mistakes and face failures but the trick is to learn from them and not keep on repeating the mistakes. Do not make the adolescent dependent on decisions and guidance of the parents.

  • While it is important to love your adolescent all the time and even after the adolescence period is over, it is also necessary that the adeolscent will have progressively less contact and interaction with the parents as he/she progresses in age. Parents have to learn to accept the idea that the adolescent is preparing for a separate life and the adolescent has to understand that he/she has to live an independent life.
  • The changes and letting go should be done in a graded manner and according to the capacity of each adolescent
  • Parents need to help and support the adolescent to make choices of subjects and streams in school and college, choose a career and prepare for an independent family life

 

While graded independence is necessary for all adolescents it is unique for each family. There are shared lives and values between parents and adolescents. Neither the adolescent nor the parents should let go any opportunity of sharing and happiness. Recognize that these shared opportunities will keep on declining progressively as the age advances.

Tip 8 Monitor the friends of adolescents

Friends are an important part of life during adolescence. They are a strong influence. Friends are considered to be more important than perhaps at any other age. Parents need to know that their adolescent will have friends and he/she will experience ups and downs with friends many times during adolescence. It is also important to know that friends will change. Parents might get the feeling that their adolescent does not listen to them but listens more to friends. During this time, the adolescent can develop relationships which may mature or breakdown or lead to a lot of stress. As parents it is important to stay convinced that even though their adolescent has friends, and he/she may even share and discuss very personal and private issues with friends the position of parents still remains all important in the life of the adolescent.

As parents it is important to provide enough space to the adolescent and this is a part of gaining independence, build self-efficacy and confidence in life. However it is equally important that parents must know the friends of their adolescents. Knowing the adolescent friends will not disturb him/her as long as there is no feeling of encroachment of his/her free space. If this occurs then the adolescent will feel threatened. Many times parents have to allow the adolescent to stumble. However it is important that health or personal security is not compromised.

Parents may have to overlook some shortcomings. As parents do not become too critical of the friendship unless it is found that something is seriously wrong that would threaten the health or security of the adolescent.

  • For the parents it is important to know the friends of their adolescent and learn about the friendships as well as depth of the friendship. This is learning for the adolescent as well as for the parents. Remember that good friends will influence the adolescent positively while bad company of peers would quite likely make him/her bad.
  • Tell the adolescent that you as parents are supportive of friendship as a part of independence. However the adolescent must feel confident of sharing issues with the parents so that you can help the adolescent to provide sound guidance about the friendship. The adolescent should consider parents to be his/her best friend. This would require mutual faith.
  • Parents should not be too critical of the friends of adolescents. Behaviour and actions deserve criticism but the appearance and other traits or individual characteristics should not be criticized.
  • Parents should not make their decisions about friends in a hurry and they should be guided by evidence and not any hearsay. The decision making should be done after an adequate analysis and action should be taken that is appropriate only when an intervention is required
  • Parents should allow adequate space and time for adolescent to spend with their friends. It is important for parents not to interfere with the adolescent’s freedom about his/her friends.

 

Ignore minor shortcomings of the friends of adolescents but monitor the friendships of adolescents and do not allow your adolescents to have friends or peers who threaten his/her health or security.

Tip 9 Help the adolescent to reach his/her potential

Parents should know that each adolescent is different. They must be aware that their adolescent is also different from other adolescents. It is important for the parents as well as the adolescent to recognize the potential and develop it to the maximum possible level. The adolescent may be very good in the studies. Even in the studies there may be great interest in arts or science or biology or commerce/business or in creative art. Efforts should be made by the parents and adolescents to work on this potential and provide space to the adolescent so that he/she gets skilled. Interest and motivation are linked to each other. Parents and adolescents should think of seeking guidance, coaching and mentoring to develop this expertise and excellence. There are others besides the parents who can help the adolescent in pursuing the interest.

It is extremely important for parents to know that potential of the adolescent is not limited to academic excellence only. The adolescent may be good in creative art, music, dance, sports or others and these may be pursued as a hobby or as a profession. As parents, it is important to be aware that your adolescent if channelized appropriately may earn a lot of name, fame and money by focusing on extra academic pursuits. The choice of an appropriate career and hobbies leads to long lasting happiness and a sense of fulfilment.

The parents must be aware that adolescence is the period when the adolescent will not remain focused. It is quite normal for the adolescent to have intensive interest in something for sometime and then lose interest completely rapidly. This may return or may never come back. This should be accepted as normal. The cues need to be recognized and it would be useful to keep assessing where the adolescent is showing persistent and consistent interest and follow it. Every achievement should be recognized and celebrated and followed up to keep building on the strengths. The role of the parents is to be supportive and not directive. The parents should give themselves and the adolescent enough time to make up their mind and provide enough space to let the adolescent make up his/her mind. This is quite often frustrating and it may be that the mind is not made up even upto the age of 20 years. A right decision is much more suitable than a decision taken in a hurry. Parents should never impose a decision about career or subject stream,

  • The decisions about studies and career should be based on the interest and capabilities of the adolescents. These should not be imposed by the parents.
  • Parents should be well informed about the various options, their pros and cons and what it would involve. These need to be placed for consideration by the adolescent and these discussions may have to be done repeatedly before it is fixed and finalized.
  • Know the resources of the family and capacities to support the adolescent in pursuing what the adolescent wants to do.
  • Adolescents should be supported in what they have achieved. As parents it is important to find out what the adolescent is proud of and he/she should be congratulated for what was achieved even though the achievement may appear to be small. Celebrate small wins frequently in preference to big wins This would help keep the adolescent to stay motivated in a sustained manner.
  • Good performance in academics is not the only achievement to celebrate. Other achievements are as important as performance in studies. In fact these can sometimes lead the individual much farther in life than studies or academic excellence.
  • The parents should always be prepared to face reverses and adversities. They should also be ready to face inconsistency It is quite reassuring for the parents to know that most of the times the reverses and inconsistencies are temporary.
  • The parents should know their adolescent well and also be aware of what it would involve to make a choice successful
  • Seek help and guidance from others and make timely investments to provide opportunities for the adolescent
  • Parents should avoid comparing the adolescent with others. Remember that in different adolescents, the situation context and environments are different. Comparison is useful only if it helps to motivate the parents and the If comparison leads to development of a healthy spirit of competition then this may be done.

 

Don’t push the adolescent and do not expect the adolescent to become what you want him/her to be. Try to determine what the dream of the adolescent is and then work together to help the adolescent to achieve it. The dreams can change rapidly and the parents should be prepared for this. Experience and review helps in reaching a good career choice. 

Tip 10 Guidance to adolescent on romantic relationships

Adolescents think a lot about relationships, talk about relationships selectively (generally not with their parents or teachers). They develop relationships and may even commit themselves to relationships. These interests are sometimes exaggerated in the form of enjoying company of opposite sex members, Towards later adolescence more time is spent with adolescents of opposite sex if there are opportunities. The behaviour and expressions can vary from one culture to the other and also the context.  These relationships bring happiness to them a lot of times and may sometimes upset them. Occasionally they get into stress or depression as a result of their relationship breaking down. Early relationships are transitory or may last for several months but these relationships allow them to experiment and learn right from wrong. This experimentation prepares them for long term relationships. These relationships contribute to self-esteem, shapes values, intimacy and sexuality.

Parents can contribute to development of healthy relationships in their adolescents. At the same time, the parents have to be aware of development of relationships in their adolescents that can place them at risk of HIV/AIDS, STIs and teen age pregnancy. Serious relationships do not develop generally in young adolescents (10-14 years age) although the mind set towards romantic relationship begins to develop in the young adolescents and the age at which this begins varies. Parents need to be sensitive and be ready for appropriate responses. The parents should be aware that their role in the romantic relationship of their adolescent is a substantial challenge for the parents to resolve themselves.  Parents should be reasonable and supportive.

Healthy adolescent romantic relationships are characterized by open communication, high levels of trust, and partners who are relatively close to each other in age. The healthy relationships help to create identity amongst adolescents, enhance interpersonal skills and obtain emotional support from adolescent friends. Parents should monitor and guide and strive to help their adolescent develop healthy relationships.

On the other hand unhealthy relationships can be a serious risk to the adolescent. These can have immediate and long term bad effects. Unhealthy relationships may be a norm in some societies especially amongst males. The risks are stress and depression, aggression and abuse, violence, pregnancy, STI and HIV/AIDS. The abuse can be physical, verbal, or psychological. These relationship can also lead to the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. This is an illustration of clustering of risky behaviour. Needless to state that their practice can have devastating consequences on the adolescent, the family and the community.

  • Parents should promote and support the development of healthy relationships that their adolescent wants to develop. There should be age appropriate discussion between the adolescent and the parents on sexuality and safer sex. Parents must realize and accept that sexual activity is going to happen some day. It is important to prepare the adolescent to ensure safety in accordance with values of the family, society and in conformity with the cultural norms. Amongst these family norms and values are the most important.
  • Parents should discuss ways of developing healthy relationships with their adolescents and encourage open dialogue with them on the issue of healthy relationships.
  • As parents, it is important to fully prepare the adolescent to deal with the different situations and contexts that can lead to unhealthy relationships and what to do to ensure their safety in such situations.
  • Peers of adolescents have a strong influence on the adolescents Positive parenting helps the adolescents to have appropriate peer company (not undesirable peer company) and contribute to healthy relationship.
  • In the relationships the adolescent needs to be guided not to make a commitment until he/she becomes reasonably certain of the partner
  • Adolescents must be convinced that relationship should not be a reason for harm to themselves and to their partner.
Parents should guide the adolescents throughout this age to understand healthy relationship, help them in communication, negotiation, and use of interpersonal skills. This would guide the adolescents to develop meaningful relationships which can lead to development of lifelong relationships. Parents should monitor the adolescent and communicate with the adolescent. 

Tip 11 Model healthy behaviour

Teaching by example in the family accompanied with an ongoing dialogue with the adolescent is an effective way for the adolescent to learn, practice what he/she should do and incorporate in his/her life.

The adolescents are exposed to and are exploring an ever widening world around him/her beyond the home, the school and the immediate surroundings. However, what happens at home serves as a model for the adolescent to emulate or reject. The family values, and the norms are a major influence in shaping the adolescent behaviour. As parents, it is important to remember that the adolescent is shaping a unique identity that is largely influenced by the environment at home.

Parents exercise their influence both by what they do and by what they say. With respect to what they do, parents’ modeling, or setting a good example, has been found to be linked to acquisition of better skills and attitudes around academic achievement, employment, eating physical activity, healthy habits, individuality, relationships, communication, coping, and conflict resolution. If there are conflicts and problems or if parents come late at night, gamble, drink a lot of alcohol or are violent or abusive the adolescent is bound to be influenced. The preaching of good values and model behaviour will not work in this environment. Even the peer and friends company is influenced by the model the adolescents see at home. Communication, discussions around social and moral values assume meaning when the adolescent sees good modelling of behaviour, good eating habits and consistency in their parents. Central to all these strategies are communication skills, including listening, modelling, offering consultation and advice, negotiating differences, and problem solving.

  • Parents should set a good example relating to risk taking, healthy habits, and emotional control and stability
  • Express personal position about social, moral, and spiritual issues, including issues of gender. Put this to debate as often as required for the adolescent to develop an understanding and a conviction.
  • Model the relationship that you practice and what you expect your adolescent to have .
  • Try to answer all the questions of the adolescent as honestly as possible according to their level of maturity.
  • Maintain family traditions norms and values and enourage the adolescent to practice the same with some improvement if possible. Do not expect the adolescent to practice what you have failed to do or are not able to practice
  • Help the adolescent get information about the future education, career streams and hobbies. Support the adolescent to pursue vocations, pursue household activities and prepare for employment.

Participate in reasoning and decision making by the adolescent and provide all opportunities to practice safer behaviour.

Parents and family members have to provide model of behaviour and life style that is protective from personal and health risks as well as prepare him/her for an independent life as an adult. During this age period parents still matter a lot and adolescents matter a lot too. Do not expect the adolescent to practice model behaviour which the parents are not able to demonstrate to the adolescent. 

In this booklet, we have tried to convey a very important message – Work together with your adolescent in a consistent manner. Instead of trying to manage or control everything yourself, it’s time to involve your adolescent and other well-wishers in the process of his growing up into an adult. Communicate, connect, trust and love your adolescent unconditionally. Remember to take small steps at a time and work on the issues one at a time maintaining a flexible and rational attitude all along. Parents have to remind themselves that during the second decade of life baby steps undertaken on a daily basis lays the foundation for a healthy, happy and productive life.     

Key references

  1. Top tips for parents www.parentingni.org/wp…/tipsparentingteenagers_000 September 2006.
  2. Top tips for parents www.parentingni.org/wp…/tipsparentingteenagers_000 September 2006.
  3. Positive parenting strategies for the teenage years. www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Parenting yourTeen_Handout1 Accessed December 2016.
  4. Tips for parenting teens-ORS-National Institutes of Health https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/…/Tips accessed December 2016.
  5. Top tips for parents Your guide to positive parenting/Department of Health https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/top-tips-parents 2009. Accessed December 2016.

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