Column: Surviving (and thriving) through the teen years

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Commenary by Mary Brunner, MD, Riley Physicians Pediatrics – Zionsville

Brunner_Mary _ MDParenting at every stage of a child’s life has trials, but parenting during adolescence poses unique challenges. To help make the teenage years more enjoyable for you and your teen, plan ahead and be informed about adolescent issues so you can begin thinking about how you’ll address them when the time comes. Setting expectations early means there will be fewer surprises – and hopefully less conflict – during the teen years. Other suggestions:

Be a good role model. Teenagers are more likely to make good choices about issues like drinking or texting and driving when they see their parents acting responsibly.

Expect mistakes. The frontal lobes of the brain – the areas responsible for decision making – don’t fully develop until age 25. Help your teenager think through issues so she can make good choices.

Spend time together. Be diligent about spending time with your teenager. Even if it’s just a trip to the store or sports practice, try to engage your teen in conversation. Even if you get one-word answers, your teen will know you’re available to him. Also try and make time for family dinners.

Turn off electronics at night. Sleep is important. Encourage good sleep habits by limiting the use of electronics at bedtime.

Know your teen’s friends; make them feel welcome. When your child begins spending more time away from you, it’s important to know her friends. Encourage your teen to invite friends to your home, and make them feel welcome. You’ll want your house to be the one where teenagers feel safe and comfortable.

Set limits. Be clear about expectations. Parenting a teenager isn’t easy. Be firm, and don’t be afraid to be the parent. Set boundaries for your teen in terms of curfew, and be sure your child knows your expectations when it comes to school and behavior.

Have “those” conversations. Although it can be hard to talk to your teenager about topics like sex, underage drinking and drug use, studies show even brief conversations with parents about these topics can significantly impact teen behavior.

Finally – have fun with your teen. It’s an amazing time of life.

Mary Brunner, MD, specializes in pediatrics. She is a guest columnist located at Riley Physicians Pediatrics, 1650 W. Oak St., Ste. 210, in Zionsville. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.873.8855.


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