The teen years are a preparation for adulthood and teens need a separate world from adults. Talk with them about potential threats and tell them the behaviour you expect from them.
Of course I want to safeguard my teens well-being, I would want to include myself in their use of media and I am always available if anything comes up that may have upset or frightened them. Therefore, for me Relationship is at the heart of this divisive topic.
When parents are controlling the teen may feel that the parent has all the power and they learn simply to be passive and to conform or to rebel. My recommendation is to put the focus on relationship with your teenager, where you want them to feel it is safe to say more and they know they can come to you. Every parent has to make their own decision on this, but remember parenting is not policing, it is about the values and beliefs and the role modelling you show each and every day.
Taking the time to talk with your teen rather than at them, creates the safety for them to share some of their inner world. Getting to know them and being interested in the other, engaging in active listening and being non-invasive results in an understanding of how your teen is feeling.
Examples of this type of open communication are: ‘Tell me more.. How are you feeling? How can I support you?’ So often in the aftermath of a teen tragedy online activity or a diary is found where you learn about bullying, how is it that it was not safe to go to the parent? We need to create the kind of relationships where our teenager feels they can come to us when they encounter difficulties.
If something happens, see it as an opportunity to get to know your teen better as all behaviour has a reason, therefore we need to focus on the ‘why’ of the behaviour.
A teen who is troubling or troublesome is not trying to make your life difficult; rather they are trying to show you how difficult life is for them. Therefore, punishment is not the answer. Compassion is the No 1 response to a teens troubling behaviour to create the safety for them to disclose what is going on for them.
The only real control you have is the strength of your relationship with your teenager. Building a strong relationship with strong boundaries around the behaviour you expect and role modelling the behaviours you want to see are vital. When a teen makes a mistake and the relationship is unconditional and non-judgemental, it creates the safety for the ‘why’ of the behaviour to emerge and needs to be seen as an opportunity to deepen relationship with your teen.
How to use Social Media safely, including Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat and AskFM.
This article was written by Sheila O Malley. Sheila owns Practical Parenting and offers courses, 1 to 1 support and School Talks as well as Company talks on Parenting and wellbeing. See www.practicalparenting.ie for details. Book a One Day Saturday course from 10-4pm with a friend or partner and get the tips to need to support you in the hardest job you ever do! Check out Sheila's scheduled autumn Parenting courses here
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