YouthZone column: Quality time builds trusting relationship with your teens

Sharlene Salinas

Sharing quality time with your children allows you to know what your child is up to without making it seem like you’re keeping tabs on them. Quality time comes from sharing a meal, taking a walk or picking them up from school/extracurricular activities.

Parents can ask specific questions about their day, but be mindful that it doesn’t sound like an interrogation. Asking who they had lunch with, how their days are going, what they are excited for this week or what the highlight of their day was shows them you are interested and curious about what they are doing.

Parents are the most influential people in a teenager’s life. Developing a strong parent-teen relationship can be a key factor in preventing unhealthy teen behavior. Even when your child is ready for independence, deep down, they still appreciate your involvement at some level.

Finding a balance and respecting their growth and desire for independence is a work in progress. It takes effective communication, setting rules and boundaries, constant adjustment and knowing what is going on in their lives. When you’ve laid the groundwork for communication, teens will more likely come to you with questions and concerns about drugs, alcohol or other issues.

This is not to say it will be easy. Parents will get eye rolls and pushback from their teen, but parents can explain they are curious and want know how they are doing.

It is important to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol and clearly communicate your expectations. Before talking to your teenager about substances, parents should do their homework to really understand the current trends for their child’s age group. Be ready to explain how drugs can affect them in the long and short term.

When speaking to your child, leave room for questions. Be prepared to be asked if you have ever taken illicit drugs. If your answer is no, talk to your teen about how you managed the peer pressure and why you chose not to. If you answer yes, be honest with them about why you did it and tell them what you want them to learn from your experience.

Teens want independence, yet still need appropriate limits. Have them help you set these limits and a consequence they think is fair for breaking the rules. Make sure to follow through with consequences, because it’s normal for young people to test the boundaries. If teens understand the rules and consequences, then parents can respond to pushback by saying, “We talked about this and both agreed to a fair consequence.”

If you’ve set up a solid communication relationship, it’s easier to set up an agreement for teens to text you for a ride home if they find themselves at a party with alcohol or drugs. Because you have a strong relationship, your teen will know through your agreement that there will be no questions asked and no punishment.

At the end of the day, your teen needs to know that you will listen with an open mind. The goal is for teens to know that safety is the parent’s number one priority, that parents trust them and that they are there for them when needed.

YouthZone is there to help teens and parents to learn how to communicate better and help them develop a trusting relationship. To arrange for family or parent consultation, call 970-945-9300 for an appointment with one of YouthZone’s counselors.

Sharlene Salinas is YouthZone’s Youth Advocate II. She has a passion for mentoring youth and has always been intrigued by the criminal justice system. She believes that her diverse work history in education, legal work and health services will be an asset to her as she builds a foundation for her work at YouthZone. Salinas graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in sociology, criminal justice and criminology.

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