• Get into their world – The world that teens are growing up in is not the world in which we grew up. The next four suggestions are more specific ways to get into their world:

• Listen to their music – When I begin to work with teenagers in my counseling office, one of the first things I have them do is bring in a couple of their favorite CD’s and we listen to them. It keeps me in touch with what is being pumped into their heads all day long.

• Watch what they watch – Not only do you need to watch the TV programs and movies your teen is watching, you also need to watch the commercials and other advertising aimed at kids. What is the message behind the commercial? Our kids are being taught to be non-thinking consumers from day one.

• Walk the halls – Go to school one day. Take a walk through the halls between classes. I can just about guarantee you that you will be surprised by what you see.

• Screen time – It always amuses me when I talk with parents who complain about how much time their kid spends playing video games. I usually ask the parents if they have ever played the games with their kid. Not only do you need to know what is going into their heads, just like music and TV, you need to know just how addictive the experience can be.

• Teen Room Makeover – Get together with your teen, clean everything out, do some painting, maybe some new furniture. You could find some magazines for ideas and examples. This can send a very stong message to teens that they are special, with a special place that they helped design for their wants and needs. They also get the message that they are expected to clean up what could be a disaster area.

• Vitamin NO – Every now and then, I work with a teen who needs a good dose of vitamin NO. Many parents have not figured out how to administer this vitamin and are either uncomfortable or afraid to do it. Once given the suggestion and “permission,” most parents can learn. You have to be prepared for the teen to not like it, and test you to see if you mean it.

• Vitamin YES – At the same time, teens also need a healthy dose of vitamin YES. Once you have gotten clear on what to say no to, and strong enough to say it, then your yes can really mean something. I tell the teens with whom I work that parents do not stay up late at night trying to create new ways to say no. Parents like to say yes – to good choices.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.

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