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Setting Boundaries For Teenagers While Increasing Their Freedom

“Sink or Swim.”

If you have teenagers you know what I am talking about. When children reach the ages of 15-17 parents begin to wonder whether or not it is time to let them make their own decisions. Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.

Of course teens believe they know everything and can navigate life’s decisions on their own. With age comes wisdom, however, and parents can set boundaries for teenagers and enforce explicit rules to help teens transition away from ‘mom and dad decisions’ and learn to make good choices on their own. Here are some guidelines you may find helpful:

  • Establish non-negotiables up front.  When parenting teenagers, safety and well-being cannot be compromised. Let your teen know that behaviors such as drinking, drug use, and risky driving will not be tolerated. No exceptions.
  • Discuss rules open to compromise. Household rules such as curfews, household chores, your teen’s financial responsibilities, and homework policies, are most effective when they are established as a result of discussion with your teen. Allow natural logical consequences to follow failures to comply.
  • Pick your battles.  Clothing choices, hairstyles, music choices, and which club or sport to be a part of might be good decisions to leave up to your teen. If that weird band t-shirt or goofy hair style won’t have an adverse effect on your teen’s success, then letting go of the battle may allow her to feel in control of some aspect of her life. Understanding teenagers is to know which of their behaviors are innocent efforts of self-expression, and which ones are rooted in more troublesome activities or attitudes.

If your teen continues to struggle with the non-negotiables, gets in trouble at school, or cannot keep to the boundaries you set, it may be time to seek counseling. Family therapy and individual sessions for your teen can be an effective and safe way for your child to work through difficult issues. A trained counselor can help families work together as a unit to create rules and boundaries in a non-threatening environment.

 

Jennifer Meehan MA, LPC has worked for the last 15 years in public education and knows has experience working with students and their families in dealing with, ADD/ADHD, anger, autism, defiance, conduct disorders, and abuse. www.achievebalance.org

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