Adolescence can be an exciting time for teens and a nerve-wracking time for their parents. As your son gets older and begins asserting more independence, you must strike a delicate balance between setting healthy boundaries and giving them some freedom to learn, grow and make mistakes. While you shouldn’t aim to be repressively strict, you also don’t wish to become the overly permissive parent who never knows what your son does in his free time or who he hangs out with. Here are some helpful guidelines on setting ground rules for teens and enforcing the consequences.
1. Promote Smart Safety
Teenage boys, with their seemingly unlimited reserve of energy, may believe they’re invincible, but you know better. Keep in mind that the rational decision-making part of your son’s brain is still developing, and he may make reckless choices as a result. If your son is getting old enough to apply for his learner’s permit or driver’s license, now is an excellent opportunity to set some ground rules around driving, including how to limit distracted driving.
As a parent, you are also your son’s best source of information and first line of defense against underage drug and alcohol experimentation. Talk about ways to resist peer pressure and teach him how to assertively say no. Establish clear consequences for what will happen if you discover your son has been drinking or using drugs.
2. Encourage Healthy Habits
While your child may no longer need your help to bathe, get dressed or brush his teeth each day, everyone needs occasional reminders to practice self-care. Consider setting ground rules around screen time, eating a balanced diet and getting enough physical activity.
One simple way to provide an array of social, emotional and academic benefits for your teen is to introduce device-free family dinners. Consider asking questions such as “Did you learn anything interesting in school today?” Then, listen without interrupting. You could also keep a mental list of thought-provoking questions to ask your teen at dinner – make sure they are open-ended, so your son can’t brush them off with a simple “yes” or “no.”
3. Prepare Your Son for the Real World
Before you know it, your son will be ready to graduate from high school and go on to college or the workforce. He may already be working a part-time job to earn extra money for expenses like a car payment or school trips. Now is an ideal opportunity to set ground rules that teach your teen how to save and spend wisely. Teach him how to make a budget and how to make smart spending choices. To give him a realistic idea of how much things cost, you may want to send him to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping.
4. Get to Know Your Son’s Friends and Hobbies
While you don’t want to be a “helicopter parent,” taking an interest in what your son does and who he spends time with is a valuable way to convey how much you care. You can start getting a sense for who might pressure your son into doing things he shouldn’t, and remind him of the importance of following the ground rules you’ve mutually agreed to.
Adolescent Services at ARCH Academy
If your family needs help dealing with adolescent substance abuse, ARCH Academy is here for you. We are an accredited rehab facility offering 12-step programming in an academically focused environment for young men ages 14 to 18. To protect your son’s bright future, take the first step and contact us today.