Parenting Teens: How Can I Help My Teen Make Good Decisions?

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What Were You Thinking!?! Helping Teens Make Better Decisions

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

What were you thinking!?! It’s a question raised frequently by parents when their child hits adolescence. And while we lecture kids about making good decisions and thinking for themselves, do we ever really stop to look at what we do to prepare them for the decisions they’ll have to make as teenagers?

Is your teen ready to make good decisions?

Is your teen ready to make good decisions?

Adolescence is that blurry grey area when kids move away from their parents to be more independent. They start to want to make their own decisions and unfortunately this all happens whether parents are ready or not.

It can be tempting to want to continue to make your child’s decisions for them – especially when they appear to be blind to the obvious consequences of their actions – but when you think of the life lessons you’ve learned how did you reach these realisations, through verbal instruction or through experience?

Your teen will eventually have to be responsible for all kinds of decisions. Some are relatively small, like when to go to bed. Others are more significant, like when they’ll start having sex.

It tends to be bad decision making in the latter category that leaves parents stunned.

But if teens aren’t given the opportunity to practice responsible decision making with the smaller stuff is it really that surprising that they don’t make good choices when they’re faced with larger decisions?

There will of course be times when you need to step in and make decisions for your teen, but it’s equally important to help your child learn personal responsibility by allowing them to make their own decisions. Finding the right balance is a fine art. How do you know when to step in and when to let go? Before you step in ask yourself, for this situation:

Will it matter in the longer term if my teen makes a decision I don’t agree with?

Is it more important for my teen to do what I want them to do or for them to practice making decisions?

If my teen gets it wrong what might they learn that will help them make a better decision next time?

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.