Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday when your son or daughter would come home from school every afternoon excited to tell you about their day? Now, you’re lucky if he takes one headphone bud out to listen to you ask if he has homework. And carrying on full, enjoyable conversations? They’ve become few and far between as your child has become what you’ve always feared…a teenager.
There’s a ton for kids and their parents to look forward to in the teenage years: school dances, applying to colleges, and first dates. It’s an exciting time, but it can also be a stressful time for the whole family. Your teen is becoming more independent and testing limits; he wants to be treated like an adult, but the truth is, his brain isn’t ready yet.
During the teenage years, the brain’s prefrontal cortex is still developing. This part of the brain is directly behind the forehead, and it serves as a teen’s judgment center. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for teenagers to make decisions that seem like a good idea at the time but are dangerous or hurtful to others or themselves. Just thinking about it is enough to keep you up all night worrying about how to keep your teenager out of trouble.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a foolproof checklist you can look at when determining if your child is likely to misbehave, engage in risky behaviors, or become violent. Teens are extremely complicated and may get into trouble for any number of reasons, including:
When figuring out how to keep your teenager out of trouble, however, you may be able to gain some insight from the time of day teens typically get into trouble. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, violent crimes by juveniles occur most frequently in the hours immediately following the close of school on school days. On non-school days, incidents usually occur through the afternoon and early evening hours, peaking between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
When left to their own devices, kids are more likely to get in trouble. So, rather than giving your teen free reign of the house after school while you’re at work, get them involved in extracurricular activities. Studies show that kids who engage in extracurricular programs are less likely to engage in risky or criminal behavior. Don’t make them sign up for so many sports and clubs that they get stressed out, though — it should be just enough to keep them busy, active, happy, and out of trouble.
In addition to extra-curricular activities with their peers, don’t forget to schedule some quality family time as well. Teens may try to pull away from parents, but they still need your attention and love. If a teen has a strong family unit, they may feel more empowered to make better decisions in their day to day life. Take them to a baseball game, spend the day bouncing at Launch, or use a rainy day as an excuse to stay in, eat snacks, and watch a movie together.
Aside from activities, it’s important for you to adjust the way you deal with your child on a regular basis. Neil Bernstein, a clinical psychologist, and author of How to Keep Your Teen Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can’t, believes in a few different ways that parents can stay positive and help their kids stay out of trouble:
Create boundaries and limits
Once you set limits, stick to them. You can’t be wishy-washy, or teens will try to challenge your authority.
Your teen thinks he or she is a full blown adult, and you still think of them as a toddler, but the reality is somewhere in the middle. The same goes for how you reach agreements with your teen. Show them that you’re willing to compromise, respect their opinion, and arrive at a happy medium.
Teens want respect, and they don’t respond well to “because I said so” as an answer. Your son or daughter is well on their way to becoming a functioning member of society, and you should treat them as such.
It may seem like your teen shuts down every time you try to talk to them, but don’t stop trying. You may just need to adjust your approach. Begin conversations with praise or something positive, and don’t bother them when they’re clearly tired or upset.
Learning how to keep your teenager out of trouble can be daunting, but with a little effort from both sides, it won’t be long before these complicated teenage years feel like a distant memory.
Keep your teens off cell phones and video games by planning a fun family day at Launch Trampoline Park. Find your nearest Launch now!