Teenagers are growing and changing rapidly. They face many challenges. This transition from childhood to adolescents can be difficult for teens. Parents can help teens develop the skills and knowledge they need as they begin asserting their independence. While teens need your support, they also need to learn how to make their own decisions and begin making meaningful relationships outside of the family. This is a normal part of development. By giving your child the communication skills and knowledge she needs to assert herself, you can prepare her to successfully and responsibly deal with these new challenges.
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Teach your teen to say no to things that could harm him. One of the major challenges that many teenagers face is peer pressure. This is likely the first time your teen will have to make these types of decisions. Discuss specific scenarios. Ask your teen if he would know what to say, for instance, if he were offered drugs.
Role-play ways that your teen can say no without feeling embarrassed. Encourage him to assert himself confidently. Help him to see alternatives to things he does not want to do, and help him know how to express these to his friends. Explain to him that it's OK to say, "I'm not comfortable doing that" and to offer alternative activities to his friends.
Encourage and discuss respect as a core value of relationships. Show respect to teens by including them in important decisions, particularly those that involve their lives. For instance, when making rules and curfews, make sure that your teens are able to assert their desires about these rules to you and have a say in the consequences involved in breaking them. By modelling respect in your relationships, your teens will learn what a respectful relationship looks like.
Teach your teen how to handle aggressive behaviour and bullying. Explain that it is not OK for people to take advantage of anyone and that verbal put-downs are a form of aggression. Give her strategies for dealing with conflict and aggressive behaviour constructively. For instance, she can be polite and nonabrasive but direct. Make it clear that if someone is taking advantage of her, she can come to you or another adult for help and that the situation does not need to continue. Compliment your teen when she asserts herself in a constructive manner.
Tips and warnings
- Encourage self-esteem in your child and encourage her to think for herself. If she feels that her opinions are important, she will be more likely to stand up for herself.
- While assertiveness is important, some teens may have difficulty controlling their tempers. Learn and teach your child anger management. Techniques, such as relaxation exercises and understanding anger and its triggers, can help a teen to be assertive without being aggressive.
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