If you’re a father like me, you know all too well how the hectic pace of life can crowd out our family time. Although I didn’t always succeed, I worked hard to make my wife and children my top priority. As I talked about teen problems with my daughter, I tried to instill the value of responsibility in her mind. By keeping the lines of communication open, we tackled some pretty tough subjects.
Like many other girls in middle school, my daughter was bullied as she struggled to find herself and fit in with a group of kids who would support her. However, she kept this secret to herself for a time, and I failed to recognize the signs, such as withdrawing, a drop in grades, and depression. In some cases, kids hide behind computer screens and cyberbully because they think they are anonymous. Finally, a call from a concerned teacher and a heart-to-heart conversation brought the issue to the surface so that we could resolve it together.
I began talking with my daughter about alcohol and drugs before she even reached middle school to help her understand the dangers of substance abuse. We continued to have regular conversations about this topic whenever the issue came up. I even talked to her about stories in the news or movies that showed substance abuse and used those as a launching pad for discussions on how drug use and other habits can seriously alter your life’s course and outcome.
Mental Health Issues
As I’ve worked with troubled youth and therapeutic boarding schools, I’ve learned a lot about mental health. It can be a subtle, creeping issue, or it can hit you like a landslide. I watch for the following warning signs in my daughter, such as changes in appearance, weight loss or gain, erratic behavior, frequent outbursts, threats to leave home and similar behaviors. We talk about common mental health issues and how it’s possible to still find help and make progress when you deal with challenges like these.
Teen Sexuality and Pregnancy
Nothing will have a lasting effect on your life like becoming a parent, especially when you’re a teenager and not ready for it. As a father, I love and value my daughter so she knows her worth and that he deserves respect from the boys she is dating. My wife and I also make it clear to her that safety is easy to access and the best defense against STD’s and teen pregnancy next to abstinence. Though we hope she waits to explore those avenues until she is older and wiser, we want to make sure she has us to talk to and resources to help her if she chooses.
Proactive Actions for Dads
In addition to keeping the lines of communication open, we’ve taken the following steps with our teens:
- Praise her efforts, abilities and brains and not just her beauty to help her develop self-confidence
- Set clear limits in writing, which leave no room for misunderstanding
- Provide guidance without taking over
- Offer options when possible to help teens feel that they have some control over their lives
- Laugh whenever I can, even while disciplining, to help break up the seriousness of the process
- Give increased privileges as respect and trust are displayed between parent and teen
- Emphasize the priority of safety and health, which includes substance abuse and criminal activity
- Connected breaking the rules to consequences and
- Lightened up on less important matters, such as hair and clothes.
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