Families look forward to spring break activities (or the relaxing lack thereof) as opportunities to enjoy one another’s company and shake off the stress of school and work. A multitude of bonding opportunities—air or car travel, beach days, shared meals, books and movies – offer moments for quality conversation without the distraction of school responsibilities. Take this time to get your teens to share what’s going on in their world of school, social and extracurricular activities.
- Reality check: In an over-sexualized media world, kids are bombarded with vivid sexual expectations. It may seem to them that boys and girls their age are engaged in a steady stream of steamy, semi-clothed liaisons. Be clear with them: television, magazines and social media are constructs designed to make money. Reality is no part of that! At this time in their lives, most of their peers are wary and waiting.
- Share values: Make your personal values known and encourage your child to explore how their values come into play in daily decision making. They may roll their eyes, but they care deeply about what you think. Studies show that despite peer and media pressures, kids are very likely to mimic their parents’ values. Make sure they know what yours are. If you’re not exactly sure what they are, work it out together! It will empower you, and your teen, to commit to what’s important to you.
- Build character: Studies show that many teens are so preoccupied with how they look and with being popular, that they can’t concentrate on intellectual and character development. Ask them what they admire in their friends and role models. It’s likely that, despite superficial distractions, they enjoy the company of people who are interesting, kind, fun and generous. Emphasize the cultivation of those qualities and assure them that those are qualities that most people seek in their relationships.
- Listen: There’s no such thing as “THE ” Conversation with your child about sexuality and social-emotional health choices is ongoing. Ask them, “What do you think about the behavior you see on television/at school/on social media?” Conversation is two-sided; listening and exploring options are more effective than directives. Ask what you can do to help and be prepared to listen anytime.