At Salt Lake County Youth Services we are frequently asked about questions on how parents can help keep their teenagers safe. Keeping your children safe is something that every parent worries about. It’s no secret that we live in an environment filled with lots of temptations: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and the internet to name a few of the things that might tempt youth to make bad choices or decisions. One of the important ways that parents can help their youth navigate the rocky road of being a teenager is to set appropriate boundaries. Some parents may struggle with setting limits versus the need to give their teens independence. As a parent it’s important to know what boundaries or limits are important too for you and your family.
One of the best ways to think about what boundaries are critical to parents is to take some time to think about your parenting style. According to the Planned Parenthood website which provides several resources to teens and parents about boundaries some questions that parents can ask to determine their parenting styles are:
- Do you set strict rules and enforce punishments?
- Do you give your children lots of freedom?
- Do you feel overprotective of your child?
- Do you think you’re relaxed in your style of parenting?
When it comes to rules, some kids do well with them, while others rebel. Being on the same page helps, as it makes the child more open and accepting of the rules. One thing we tell our clients, both the teens and the parents, is that they have a role to play. This role includes following the laws and social norms, of society. For example, a child’s role is to go to school and the parents’ role is to provide food and shelter. These are examples of both social and legal roles. This serves to help the teens understand that their parents are enforcing certain rules because they have to, and also because they care about them and want to see them do well. Whenever possible, we encourage the parents to consider input from their children when it comes to the rules. Some rules may be non-negotiable such as doing chores and going to school, but empowering the child to a degree will give them some sense of autonomy.
Some ways that we can improve our relationship with our teens is to avoid extremes in our parenting styles and to get feedback from our teens about what kind of rules they would be willing to adhere to. Some suggestions from the Planned Parenthood website about boundary setting guidelines are:
- Try to have an adult home as much as possible when teens are home
- If your teen is hosting a party, keep the party alcohol, drug and tobacco free
- Know your teens friends and encourage teens to spend time with friends who are good influences
- Keep track of your teens online
Some additional things to keep in mind about boundaries are: making sure that you know what activities teens are engaging in (especially in their free time), the importance of implementing or enforcing a curfew, and how to use discipline in a wise and effective way. Check to see if your child’s school offers after school programs.
Being a parent, especially of a teen is not an easy job. If you feel like you might need additional help, Youth Services provide services to families who may be struggling with their teens. We provide free counseling, substance abuse assessments for teens, anger management classes for teens, and Strengthening Families classes to help parents and teens resolve build relationship and communication skills. For more information about our Prevention and counseling services please visit www.youth.slco.org. Salt Lake County Youth Services juvenile receiving center is also open 24/7 on the main campus located at 177 W Price Avenue. We also have a 24/7 hotline to call: 385-468-4500.