Make a Connection with Your Teen
Parent Teen Communication
While it may not always seem like it, teenagers say they do listen to parents.
Talking with teenagers about their health isn't always a parent's or a teen's favorite conversation.
But parents have more influence on their teen's health than they think, according to researchers with the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) network.
"While some adolescents are very skillful in convincing us that we are no longer pertinent in their lives, we make the mistake of believing that," says Michael Resnick, Ph.D., an adolescent health researcher and director of the PRC at the University of Minnesota.
"The research definitely contradicts that cultural stereotype."
Dr. Resnick has found that teenagers who feel they can talk to parents and other caring, competent adults are more likely than other teens to be protected from suicide, eating disorders, emotional distress, risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse.
Despite some appearances, most teens say they do want close relationships with their parents and care what they think.
"The parents sort of set the patterns," said Kristina Ann Jareno, 16, a high-school senior in Long Beach, California, who belongs to the youth advisory board of the PRC at the University of California at Los Angeles/RAND.
She says she sees parents making decisions about nutrition and physical activity that affect her friends, such as choosing whether to emphasize sports, to drive children to activities and to purchase healthy foods.
Although friends, older siblings and older cousins are role models, Jareno said her parents are the reason she studies hard in school and stays away from negative peer pressure.
"My parents are the most influential people in my life," she said.
Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UCLA RAND PRC, provides the following tips to help parents discuss topics such as fitness, nutrition, sex and substance use with teens:
- Start talking about health when children are young, and keep the lines of communication open. Never tell a child he or she is too young to ask a question, but use age-appropriate answers.
- Instead of criticizing a teen all the time, notice your child doing something good, and offer a compliment.
- Ask questions that can open a conversation, such as "What do you think about that?" and "What's on your mind?"
- Let your teen know why you want to have the conversation with phrases like "I want to understand the things you're going through," and "There is a lot of misinformation out there."
- Listen without interrupting or jumping in with advice. Rephrase what your child says to be sure you understand what your child means, and let him or her know you are listening.
- Help your children learn to make decisions on their own. Let them come up with options for solutions, go through the options with them, and have them pick one that seems best. Then you can chime in with your thoughts.
- Teach your children assertiveness skills that will help them avoid unhealthy behaviors.
- Never underestimate a parent's power of example.
The PRC network comprises 33 academic research centers around the country, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight of the centers focus primarily on adolescent health.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/prc.
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Health & Fitness: Make a Connection With Your Teen
Talking with teenagers about their health isn't always a parent's or a teen's favorite conversation. But parents have more influence on their teen's health than they think, according to researchers with the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) network.