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Parenting Teenagers By Creating A Teen-friendly Environment

Nov 6, 2007
Tired of your teen being out of your home more than in it? You can make your home a magnet for your teenager and her friends by keeping in mind a few simple teen-friendly ideas.

-- Fun is #1.

Parenting teenagers effectively means getting inside their heads a bit and the first piece of information you'll find there is not a surprise. Teens are looking for fun. Ideally, they should find it at home first. Why? Because that gives you the opportunity as the parent to oversee the environment they're spending time in and get a first-hand look at who they're spending their time with.

You'll be relieved to know you don't need to provide the latest entertainment equipment to have a teen-friendly environment, but you will definitely need to provide things for them to do. Nothing kills the fun-factor faster than "I'm bored".

So talk to your teen about what he and his friends enjoy doing and consider how that information fits into your personal home and lifestyle. If you're a sports-minded family, you probably already have a good deal of sports equipment and a yard to use it in. If your family enjoys movies, host a movie-night for your teen's friends (this means YOU can pick the appropriate movies and if any movie is in the least way questionable, forget it, no matter what your teen says).

To make this idea even more effective, realize that one of the best things you can do as you are parenting teenagers is to develop an environment of fun in your everyday homelike. We have employed the 'work hard, play hard' philosophy with our teens to encourage an attitude of personal excellence. Waiting for dinner to cook? Play a hand of cards at the kitchen table. Need to spend Saturday morning doing yard work together? Toss a ball around during well-deserved breaks.

Board games are great for families, too. Charades keep everyone laughing and involved. Family sports teach fitness, teamwork and a positive attitude, whether one is winning or losing.

Bottom line? Play games with your family, make fun a meaningful part of your parenting game plan and your teenager's friends will find it hard to resist hanging out at your home.

-- Friendly works.

You can talk to your teenager's friends. Go ahead. Try it. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you'll both get better at it. Pay attention to names, too. Teenagers love to hear their name (don't we all?) and the parent who can remember a teen's name when they walk in the door gains high marks for being friendly.

Obviously, getting to know the parents of your teen's friends is a good thing, too, but not always possible. Let's face it. Some teens your teenager will befriend will have family situations very different from your own. Use this fact to help your teenager see what works and what doesn't in families, what matters and what genuinely doesn't matter. This is another way to teach your values to your teen.

As best as is reasonable, be an accepting place for your teenager's friends. Who knows? Your home may be the only happy haven some of those teens have ever seen.

-- Don't forget the food!

Teens know how to eat. Their metabolism is on over-drive and they need regular foraging to keep that energy level sustained. You can help a lot by keeping interesting and convenient foods around but pay close attention to nutrition.

Teens need significant nutrition and by most accounts are not getting it. Dips can be low-fat and yummy, and pizza can be packed with nutrients without overloading on the fat and salt. Remember when your teen was a baby? You watched everything that went into his mouth. Well, now that you are parenting a teenager, take back that control and teach excellent nutrition to your teen.

-- Be there, but with balance.

Parenting teenagers means walking a fine line between privacy and supervision. This is easily seen when your teen is entertaining her friends at your home. Don't make it your goal to 'disappear' for the evening. Get to know your teen's friends, inquire about their families and let them know you're glad they are in your home.

But don't hover. Unless the plan was to make it a teen/adult time from the beginning, whip them in a game of ping-pong then bow out for a while. Have them help set up the taco bar then disappear to do a little work of your own. Pop back into the teen room from time to time just to say "hi" and share a laugh.

You get the idea.

Parenting teenagers can be a wild and exciting ride. What's important is that, as the parent, you take appropriate control. Making your home a place where your teen and her friends will enjoy spending time can go a long ways towards staying in the parental driving seat.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and learn more about parenting teenagers today.
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