Parenting a teen means more than just setting a curfew and paying attention to grades. Teens suddenly go from being kids to being miniature adults, dealing with very grownup issues. If you're not prepared as a parent, you might not be ready when your teen comes to you with a question or problem. You'll also need to educate yourself on teen issues, so you know the warning signs and have an action plan in place to help foster a happy, healthy and thriving teen.
Having a teen in your home means learning more about teen sexual health. Your teen will begin noticing members of the opposite sex and may become sexually active. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of U.S. high school students in 2011 found that around 47 percent of high school students are sexually active. Of those, 33.7 percent had sexual intercourse within the previous three months and of those, nearly 40 percent didn't use a condom the last time they had sex. Talking to your teen about becoming sexually active -- and if necessary, birth control and STD prevention -- can help your teen make better choices when the time comes.
Computers, TV, video games, cell phones and snapshots are just some of the ways your teen keeps in touch with that's going on around him. Technology consumption will make up a large portion of your teen's day, since 87 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 18 are online, according to an article by Amanda Lenhart et al., on "Teens and Technology," sponsored by the Pew Research Project. As a parent, you'll control the level of screen time and the number of hours of technology your teen uses by which gadgets and devices you allow him to have. Whether your teen is a tech whiz or a relative newbie, you'll need to have a discussion about safe technology usage, such as protecting his identity online and what is -- and isn't -- appropriate to send online or via text.
Around 68 percent of teens think that bullying is a big problem for kids their age, according to the article, "Talking with Kids About Tough Issues," from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another 63 percent cited discrimination and 62 percent cited violence as problematic issues for kids between the ages of 12 and 15. As your teen becomes more social, she puts herself at higher risk for dealing with bullying in some way. Whether she's the bully, the victim or the bystander, it's important to keep tabs on your teen's social life and speak to her about bullying and how to react. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can be the first to know when bullying is a problem.
Teens often begin experimenting with various substances as they get older, particularly when it comes to cigarettes and alcohol. In its article, the Kaiser Family Foundation included a poll which found that substance abuse was as big of a problem as bullying -- 68 percent noted it was an issue -- so talk to your teen about what is and isn't OK. With a respect for the house rules and her body, your teen may be less likely to give into peer pressure and try smoking, underage drinking and various types of drugs.
Many of the issues that teens face boil down to his level of self-confidence. For instance, with high self-confidence, he may be less likely to give into peer pressure or feel more comfortable in telling someone about bullying. You can help by cultivating your teen's talents and respecting his opinion, but much of his confidence is earned through the teen years on his own. Watch for signs that your teen's confidence is low, such as withdrawing from social activities or negative self talk. By helping to build his confidence, you help set him on a path to becoming a healthy teen and adult.