Teenagers and risky behaviour


Teenage boy smokingYou've heard it before and you'll hear it again - communication is key. If your teen can talk to you, and just occasionally even listen to you (and he probably does that more than you realise), then he or she is far less likely to get involved in taking sexual risks, or in alcohol or drug abuse.

Why so? Well, because adolescence is a scary, complicated time. Troubled teens need rocks to cling on to, and if you're one of those rocks then they are far less likely to get washed out into the ocean and see sex, drugs and alcohol as potential life-rafts.

What matters in parenting teenagers is being available, not being too stressed ourselves (because if we give stress out, they'll reflect it back) and about keeping our family boat together and leak-free.

Adolescents need us to provide the firm ground beneath their feet: sometimes, what they most need (just like toddlers) is firm, unequivocal direction. But unlike with our toddlers, we can't pull the wool over their eyes - we can talk the talk, but we have to walk the walk, too.

This Mumsnetter explains: "My son (14) did a bit of weed-dabbling recently, as did lots of his mates. I hit the roof. I grounded him for two months, had him put on report at school etc etc. Should say, he didn't hate me for it. In a funny way, he seemed almost relieved."

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 • Preteens
 • Child/adolescent mental health

Be a good role model

Role-modelling is hugely, critically important: if they see us drinking a lot of alcohol, or taking drugs, they're a lot more likely to do it themselves. (This might not be very palatable, but alas it is true.) It's also important to think about the messages you give your kids about your past life.

"If you're very open with your kids about your own drug use (either past or present) and you have a normal, unchaotic life, then it can be like a green light for them to go ahead and give it a go themselves because they see you unscathed, and that may well not be the case for them." Cogitoergosum

Being alert is important. Be on the lookout for change, and for signs of teenage depression. Just as you did when your kids were little, trust your instincts. If your child is behaving oddly, ask yourself: what's going on here? What has changed in her life? Try to emphathise: how is he feeling - and why?

This mum cautions: "It's the change from going out most weekends to not that needs watching. Keep an eye to make sure it's laziness and there is no underlying issue. I have experience of a child with a mental health issue and this was the first sign that something was amiss."

Teenagers are unlikely to give you much slack - so you really, really have to look after yourself. If things get really tough, think about getting professional support yourself, rather than trying to persuade your teens into it. If you can bolster your own psychological state, you'll be in a much better position to bolster theirs.

Finally, remember that children - and especially teenagers - are never going to be ours to control. We can't condone everything they do; we can't like it, either. We have to remember that it's them we love, not necessarily their behaviour.

"I HATE the fact that my step-daughter smokes, especially as she spends a lot of time with my daughter who is two, but sadly there is nothing I can do about it. I can forbid her smoking in the house but she is still going to do it. So I just have to accept it." Lins75 

Last updated: over 1 year ago