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10 Ways to Protect Your Teen

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A friend of mine has three kids and as her oldest, a daughter, entered the teen years she could see that she was a bit rebellious. She had gotten wind of a party over the weekend so when her daughter asked to sleep at a friend’s house she got suspicious. She gave her permission on one condition: she was not to go to the party she had heard about. Her daughter said she wouldn’t. Later that night she went by the house where the party was taking place. Most of the action was happening in the backyard. So she moved to a place she could see the backyard. She was relieved when her daughter was nowhere to be found. Then the back door opened and there she was. Her daughter grabbed a beer and started hanging out with her friends. So my friend went around to the front of the house, walked in, tapped her daughter on the shoulder, and calmly said, “Come with me.” Needless to say, some serious consequences followed!

Whether you agree or disagree with my friend’s methods, she was attempting to protect her teenager. It isn’t easy to protect your children from a world full of risks, but it is necessary and you can do it. Though it may not involve a backyard party spy mission, it will involve initiative and strategy. Here are 10 ways to protect your teen.

1. Know all the W’s.

Who they’re with, where they’re going, when they’re expected home, and what they’ll be doing while out of your sight. It seems too fundamental to even list, but in busy families these things fall through the cracks. You must know these things at all times to spot trouble and create needed boundaries.

2. Be a presence at their school or youth group.

There’s really no better way to observe your teen’s peers and know who’s who than to volunteer at the school or church so you can occasionally be a “fly on the wall,” just collecting information.

3. Attend their activities.

Just because your driving teen no longer needs a ride doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be at their sporting events and other activities. Show up to cheer them on, and to make observations about how they respond in certain situations and areas where you need to offer advice or encouragement.

4. Talk about sex.

Is it awkward? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Talk to your teen about the basics of sex, how your moral and religious values should guide their attitudes and actions where sex is concerned, and what appropriate boundaries are necessary to prevent a serious mistake. Be specific—you’ll never regret saying too much.

5. Talk about drugs and alcohol.

Your conversation where these risks are concerned should go beyond “Just don’t do it.” Be specific in your explanations of the risks that come with drugs and alcohol, be clear about your expectations, and offer your child strategies for getting out of a situation where other teens are using.

6. Have clear expectations and boundaries where driving is concerned.

Driving independently presents one of the greatest risks to your teen’s safety. Help them make better decisions behind the wheel by enforcing this Teen Driving Contract, and make sure they understand that failure to comply will mean loss of the privilege. Then have the backbone to follow through, even if it’s inconvenient.

7. Keep an eye on their online life.

A large percentage of men who struggle with an addiction to pornography say they first became hooked as teens. Protect your child from the life-long problems associated with this and other online addictions (like gambling) by both monitoring and filtering their access to the internet. In addition, keep regular tabs on their text messaging—a teen with nothing to hide won’t mind, and if they do…do it anyway.

8. Do family dinners.

You’ll have to be intentional to make it happen, but families who gather around the dinner table (without tech gadgets in hand) have better communication and better relationships. So mark certain nights of the week as “family dinner nights” and insist that other activities can’t infringe upon them.

9. Find things you like to do together.

The best way to keep the lines of communication open with your teen is to spend time with them. Find a hobby—golf, hiking, cooking, or even shopping—that you and your teen like to do together. It’s in those everyday moments that they’ll open up and tell you what they need help with, giving you an opportunity to guide and shape them.

10. Really listen.

We know you’re busy—we are too! But when your teen talks to you, even if it seems to be about nothing of great importance, put aside what you’re doing and really listen. The clues to what they really need are often hidden just under the surface of what they’re saying, and you’ll need to have your eyes and ears wide open to truly hear it!

What are some other ways you protect your teens?

Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.


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