Teens are notorious for engaging in different risk-taking behaviors, like drinking, that can be scary for some parents to face. Many times, when discussing typical teen behaviors, I have heard parents say, “Oh no, not my kid!” The reality is that teens do participate in risky behaviors at times. It is a part of the developmental process because their executive functions (i.e. higher levels of thinking like considering consequences before acting) are not fully developed yet. Parents may ask themselves, “How can I address the risk-taking behaviors and develop executive functioning skills in my teen?” I am glad that this question may have crossed your mind. As I have stressed before, the relationship between a parent and child can protect kids and teens from the negative aspects of life and help develop skills that are necessary for life.
For parents to help their teens deal with risky behaviors and develop their executive functioning skills, there are a few basic things that they can do. First, be supportive of decisions that your teen makes. This does not mean simply going along with whatever they want, but rather helping them during the decision-making process to consider the pros and cons of the options. It can be very tempting to point out all the pros for the choice that you want them to make but this will not help them learn how to make an informed decision. Second, with all the risky behaviors that teens can become involved in, ask them about what they know, what they don’t know, and any myths they may have heard. If you do not have the answer, that is okay. Tell them that, and research the topic together. Finally, help your teen come up with a plan on how to address peer pressure for a risky behavior and put that plan into action. Putting that plan into practice will help create those brain connections for your teen when faced with the temptation of peer pressure.
It is inevitable that teens will face some type of risky behavior. Using the power of the relationship, parents can help their teens develop the executive function skills necessary for their teens to manage higher risk behaviors. Connecting and communicating will serve your relationship now and your teen’s relationship with the world later. So, yes it can be your kid, making better decisions.
Monet Somerville, MS
Monet received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology from North Carolina Wesleyan College. She then went on to receive her Master’s in Science in Psychology with a Concentration in Child and Adolescent Development from Capella University. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Developmental Psychology with a Concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. Monet is also a licensed Trust Based Relational Intervention Practitioner.
Prior to working to The Parenting Center, Monet worked as a Case Manager in a residential facility for adolescent girls who were in foster care but were unable to be placed in a foster home. She also taught foster parents about child development and the impacts that positive parenting can make on a child.