A guide to supporting teens in making smart decisions
Your teen will make a lot of important decisions during adolescence. From when to start her homework or ask for extra help to when to have sex or try drugs and alcohol. Teens are naturally attracted to new and exciting experiences. Some are easily influenced; they follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing in order to fit in. Others are clear about who they are and what they want; they are not so easily swayed. No matter what, all teens are in a stage of development where the part of their brain that assesses risk and controls impulses is still developing. They need guidance and practice in making responsible, self-empowering decisions.
How can you help your teen develop good decision-making skills?
1.Provide her choices.
From an early age, offer choices and allow her to make decisions. As she gets older, encourage her to take positive risks like trying a new sport or visiting a new place.
Why? It will build her confidence and courage.
2.Start using the word “choice” to highlight the positive choices she makes and the outcomes of those choices.
Why? This will deepen her understanding of choices and consequences and promote good judgment.
3.When she is facing a decision, engage in a decision-making dialogue.
Ask these questions:
- What choices do you have?
- What are the possible outcomes of these choices?
- Will you be OK with those outcomes?
- What is the best possible outcome?
- Which choices will lead to the best outcome?
Why? You will empower her to think ahead and provide a framework for making decisions independently.
4.Talk about values and highlight actions or choices that match core values.
Why? Values are the guide for responsible decision-making. When your teen is connected to her core values, she will be able to make value-based decisions, rather than following the crowd or doing what she thinks others want her to do.
5.Create expectations and consequences together.
Why? Involving your teen in the rule-making process will encourage her buy-in and give her a sense of self-control.
6.Praise the thoughtful decisions she makes.
Ask her about her decision-making process. What made that the best choice? What did she have to consider in order to reach her decision?
Why? Your positive feedback will reinforce good decision-making and promote her sense of capability.
Teaching your teen how to make decisions is an important part of being a parent-coach and will set her up for success later in her life. Moreover, when teens feel capable of making decisions on their own, they will be less stressed, more confident, and happier!
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers