“I think they are so much more advanced than we were at that age. They know more, they go through more, there’s more going on in society,” says Debbie Berenson, a mother of three from Sharon, MA.
Parents are always trying to keep up with their teens, and with driving, social networking, sexting and texting, there’s a lot to be concerned about as a parent.
“The whole world is basically available to them at their fingertips, which is a double edged sword. It’s a great thing on one hand, but there can be dangers posing around the corner at the next,” says Debbie’s husband, Harris Berenson.
Then there’s the things we all experienced as teens, growing up, “There’s a lot of peer press to do stuff that, I mean, people might not want to do, might try to make you do,” says 16 year old daughter Stephanie.
As a parent, you want to be there for them to provide help and advice, but at the same time you don’t want to be a “helicopter” parent, hovering over your child and their lives, “I think that’s the balance we try to strike with them, I don’t want to pry, I don’t want to be nosy, but we want to be involved and there to help if they need us,” Debbie says.
Debbie and Harris’ children are ages 16, 13, and 6. They say the key in being close to their kids has been strong communication from a very early age. “It was a gradual conversation, I can’t remember when they started. It’s just always been like this,” Daniel Berenson, the couple’s 13 year old son, says. “I keep them updated with everything so they know what’s going on. They have like a running tally of what has been going on, what’s happening,” daughter Stephanie says.
While these kids realize they are lucky to have a good relationship with their parents, Daniel says some kids his age aren’t as fortunate, “other parents don’t really care or they act like they don’t care and they don’t really talk to their kids at all.
Dr. Karen Ruskin is a psychotherapist who says the key to a solid two-way relationship with your teen is one built on four key concepts, starting with open communication as a family. “That included communication with your teen, not at your teen. Coordination, communication with your spouse. And communication with the key players in your teen’s life,” Ruskin says. Don’t be afraid, for example to call the parent of a kid who’s hosting a party of sleepover.
Dr. Ruskin insists that parents get involved with their children’s lives. Opportunities present themselves every day. A drive in the car, a chat while making dinner can be a great time to learn a lot.
“They come home from school, they’re doing their homework, be available. Don’t take this as an opportunity to go do something else. Be there, be around, and you’ll find that they will talk with you if you ask them questions,” Ruskin says.
Offer opportunities for your kids to gain your trust. Allow them to go out with their friends and make their way home at an agreed upon time, or let them borrow the car on occasion to go to the game, the movies, or the mall. But set clear guidelines and expectations ahead of time. “If you see them as trustworthy and if you’re respectful to them, they will be respectful to themselves and implement trustworthy behavior,” Ruskin says.
But when that trust is broken, whether it’s staying out past curfew, underage drinking, or breaking family rules, experts say dealing with punishment is all in the approach. “Ask them if they’re concerned about what happened. What some of the ramifications could have been from their behavior, and then determine a consequence with them. Parents will often find that if you with as a team with your teen, your teen will come up with a consequence that is very much in sync with the punishment that fits the crime,” Ruskin says.
“It’s going to help you in the run, even if you think they’re going to be mad, they’re going to end up helping you,” Stephanie Berenson says.
For most parents, it’s a work in progress, and the Berenson’s take each challenge as it comes, with the hope that no matter the situation, they’ve given their children the tools to handle all that life as a teenager, throws as them. “Letting them know that you’re there almost like for better of for worse to share in their triumphs and to walk them through when life throws you a little bit of a curve ball and give them a little bit of the guidance and ultimately hopefully they’ll make the correct choice,” says Harris Berenson.
From Mark Ockerbloom's Blog:
Combatting the communication gap that often exists between parents and their teens. That's the subject of my special report Wednesday night on the Fox 25 News at Ten.
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