Teen issues—let’s be honest, they’re not fun for anyone involved. And as parents, how can you help your student through self-esteem issues, peer pressure, and other topics that seem so foreign to you?
We wanted to shed some light on how parents can address difficult issues with teens, so we decided to ask an expert. I sat down with Megan Daley, lead school counselor at Ohio Virtual Academy, to get some advice.
Of course, every student is different, and they all have unique and individual issues that they’ll confront. From relationships to substance use, teenagers are experiencing a stage of life that is confusing and challenging. However, a look at your involvement as a parent provides some good insight into what your student needs, and much of Daley’s advice is general enough to apply to most students and parents.
Learning Liftoff: What is your general advice to parents whose teen comes to them with a difficult issue?
Megan Daley: Always take the time to listen. The teen needs to feel safe talking with the parent, and knowing that he or she can share anything, will be heard, and will not be judged is key. Depending upon the topic, this can be difficult for parents, but listening is the first step to addressing a difficult issue. After all of the details have been discussed, the teen and parent can begin working together on a positive solution.
LL: How would you advise students/parents on these difficult issues?
MD: In general, self-esteem and how we appreciate and care for ourselves is something that should be talked about on a daily basis with all children, starting from a very young age. Talk about encouraging themselves and others, and include celebrating differences and developing empathy. Research shows that helping students know and identify their strengths and weaknesses, learning how to love and accept both of these, will ultimately lead to an increase in self-esteem.
As adults, we serve as role models to our children and need to constantly be aware of that. We need to demonstrate that we can identify our own strengths and weaknesses, and learn to accept ourselves and grow, even in our adult lives.
MD: Unfortunately, this is something starting to happen at earlier ages. Children may be rejected or even ignored by their peers. Helping children learn how to respond when this happens really is the key component. Often, counselors will do exercises that involve having children imagine themselves in different peer situations, and discussing how they would respond if put into one of those situations. This is something that can also be done at home, not always waiting until after the situation has occurred. Talk to your children about times when they may have been excluded or excluded someone else, how they felt on both ends, and how to respond differently the next time this situation occurs. As adults, this happens to us in our own lives, perhaps in regard to a work situation. Sharing this with our own children, talking about how we felt, and what we did to respond, shows our children they are not alone in feeling excluded. This connection will then open up the conversation, and they will be more willing to share their experiences with their parents.
Peer Pressure/Substance Use
MD: My main suggestion to parents is to become educated about the types of pressures/substances that their children may be exposed to. Often, schools will have educational programs, talking about the dangers of both drug and alcohol abuse, including prescription drug abuse, signs and symptoms to look for, and when and how to seek help for their child. When parents are educated, they will know what signs to look for, and who to turn to for help. There are several agencies and partnerships within our communities that can provide resources to families.
MD: We are seeing bullying taking a completely different form with the constant access to social media. It no longer is confined to the four walls at school, but can continue outside of school, up to 24 hours a day. Parents need to monitor their children’s access to devices and their social media accounts. Learning about the types of social media our teens are using is key. We cannot protect our children if we don’t understand how their access to social media can affect them. Again, parents need to have an open line of communication with their child. If bullying is occurring, in school or elsewhere, parents need to listen to the child, reach out to the adults in the setting where the bullying is taking place, and come to a resolution.
School Relationships that Interfere with Learning
MD: When school relationships are interfering with a child’s learning and academic progress, I think several things need to be looked at and considered. First, the parent and student may need to talk about how appropriate the relationship is, and possibly put restraints on how much time is spent away from other things due to the relationship. This may involve limiting time spent with that person, limiting cell phone time, etc. to ensure the student is able to be successful in the school environment.
There may be times where the parent needs to communicate with the school, to make sure everyone is on the same page in regards to communication and the plan for the student.
Personal Issues with Teachers (student believes the teacher is unfair or doesn’t appreciate/understand them)
MD: When these issues arise, we always first encourage the student/family to set up a conference with the teacher. Often, these issues can be worked out when everyone sits down together to talk about what is going on. In many cases, a counselor or administrator can be brought into the conference, and a plan can be created so the student/family and teacher can move forward. It is always best to share concerns, talk through them with all parties, and move forward with a solid plan in place. If at any point the group feels a change needs to be made, that conversation can take place between the school and the family.
A big thank you to Megan Daley, lead school counselor at Ohio Virtual Academy for taking the time to talk with me! Do you have more questions about addressing difficult issues with your teen? Let us know in the comments below.
All teens have issues, but consistent communication with our children is definitely a daily task that we should be mindful of. In some cases, parents may want to consider alternative school choices such as online school for their kids. Visit K12.com for more information about online learning. As each child is unique, strategies to overcome difficult teen issues will vary, but maintaining communication and applying the above methods are great starts.