In the process of physical and psychological growth, teens may seek out new experiences and test limits. They may also become brazen and confrontational, sullen and withdrawn, and everything in between. And it may all be perfectly normal. For most youth, drug use isn't an isolated act, it's something that fits into this range of behaviour.
Maintaining a communicative relationship, however difficult it may be at times, is important. Respect for youth as individuals and your own willingness to adjust are key elements in this communication. On the other hand, youth still need clear and consistent expectations, routines and values. Here are some guidelines to help you achieve the goal of communication and relative harmony:
- Convey your concerns without being judgmental. Strive to express yourself in clear and well-founded opinions and observations, not condemnation. Whenever possible, look for constructive and positive solutions.
- Stay interested in your teen's activities without appearing to intrude into their lives.
- Encourage your teens to express themselves about the changes they are experiencing and how the are feeling about school and friends and other parts of their lives.
- Remain conscious of teen sensibilities. Their self-esteem may still be very fragile so that teasing and jokes that appear innocuous to adults may seem very different to youth. Help them build their self-confidence rather than taking it away from them.
- Set clear, firm and rational expectations. In spite of their protestations, they will know what to expect from you as well as knowing your expectations of them.
- Make your love for them clear and unconditional.
- Reiterate your support for them regardless of what issues might arise.
Keep in mind that, while extremes of behaviour may be normal among adolescents, continued or worsening negative patterns may be signs that something more serious is at stake. It might be illicit drug use or it might be linked to other issues such as depression. You therefore shouldn't hesitate to use outside resources such as those listed in the Get Help section of this web site.
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