DR. WALLACE: We are parents of an 11-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. We respect your advice to teens, and we often discuss your column at the dinner table with our children. We enjoy reading your specific advice for teens on various topics and situations they raise with you in their letters and emails.
Since you are involved with teens on a daily basis, we would like to request your advice using a slightly different angle today. Specifically, we would like to know what we can do to become the best possible parents for two children now on the cusp of becoming teenagers. — Proud parents who care, via email
PROUD PARENTS: I have compiled a list of 10 recurring family concerns that teens often contact me about and feel are most important in maintaining a happy, productive family. I hope you will find a few items within my list that will help you to continue to maintain a harmonious family life — and thank you for your heartfelt question. Here is my list:
1. Teens need to know they are wanted and loved. Hugs, smiles, kisses and encouraging words should be a daily ritual.
2. Teens want to be a part of the total family. They want to help make some decisions on things such as curfew and vacations, etc.
3. Teens want to be trusted. Trust must be given freely but earned back if broken.
4. Teens need to be heard. Parents need to know that the most important part of communication is listening.
5. Teens actually want there to be reasonable family rules and want them enforced fairly at all times.
6. Teens deserve an honest reason when the answer to a question is "No." Parents should never use the words, "Because I said so." Teens deserve an explanation, as they become increasingly capable of understanding the logic behind adult decision-making.
7. Teens want parents to play an important role in their active, and often confusing, lives. Support them in their school and social endeavors whenever and wherever possible.
8. Teens want parents to show respect for each other. Parents should never, ever, ask a teen to enter into a mother/father debate or take sides in an adult disagreement.
9. Teens want their parents to be good role models. Parents must lead by example, and teens will naturally follow strong parental actions much more often than not.
10. Teens want guidance. Wise parents will show them the way. Never try to live your life through the life of your teen. Know that each and every teen on earth is a unique individual on the path to becoming an adult someday. The key is to communicate often and in-depth so that each teen's goals, dreams and desires can be understood. Do not judge these choices, as they are often fluid and may change. Seek rather to point out pros and cons regarding any topic or situation and let the teen digest information as they grow and develop.
Parents who add some or all of these ideas to their parenting routines will have a well-stocked toolbox to assist their teens along a journey with inevitable ups and downs. Thank you for your outstanding question. You do indeed truly care, and you seek to improve your parenting skills. This is quite commendable. Keep your mind open, keep growing yourself as a parent and most of all, do everything possible to develop and maintain good communication with your teens during these delicate — but exhilarating — years in their lives.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.