Florida parents: Congratulations, you made it through another year of navigating the anything-but-dull waters of raising a teenager. Welcome to 2017 - and buckle up for another challenging and, hopefully, rewarding year.
Although January may be in full swing, you aren’t too late for making resolutions—especially if those resolutions are aimed at raising healthy kids in 2017. Here are some suggestions for parenting resolutions to keep during the upcoming year and beyond:
Resolve to Communicate More
Communication is often a struggle between teens and their parents. You often never feel your kids are fully listening to you. Likewise, your kids might feel you aren’t fully listening to them. The result is less communication at the time of their lives that teens need your guidance the most. Therefore, in 2017, resolve to talk—and listen—more. Make a point to ask your child how their day went. Ask open-ended questions; don’t just settle for an answer of “fine.” Also, don’t try to solve every problem your teens have—just listening and being a sympathetic ear is enough to earn their trust so that when a big problem does arise, they won’t hesitate to come to you for help.
Resolve to Eat More Family Meals
A simple way to boost communication is to dine with your children more often. Studies have shown that kids who frequently sit down for family dinners are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. For the coming year, make a point of sitting at the dinner table, without smartphones or a TV, and enjoying meals with your teens. Dinner doesn’t need to be elaborate. As an alternative, breakfast or even just coffee can be just as effective in boosting communication, strengthening your relationship and raising healthy kids.
Resolve to Get to Know Your Kids’ Friends & Their Parents
The tricky difference between elementary school and junior and senior high is that when kids are younger, you tend to know all their friends. When they become teenagers, that changes; they meet a range of kids in school, text friends and are active on social media—often without you knowing who they are interacting with. Teens naturally want their privacy. You can respect that to a point, but you absolutely should know who your kids are hanging out with, especially outside of school. And once you get to know those friends, make an effort to introduce yourself to their parents as well. The more you and other parents know what the group of friends are doing and the clearer you are at setting common boundaries, the more likely they will be to make smart choices and be healthy kids.
Resolve to Be More Active
Raising healthy kids just doesn’t mean they abstain from using drugs, alcohol and tobacco—it also means getting plenty of exercise. This a sound resolution for parents and children, so strive to be more active in 2017 (or if you already are active, maintaining that level). Plan to train for a 5K run together. Take family bike rides, go for swims, play tennis or golf with your teens. Even an after-dinner walk is worthwhile activity, not only for the exercise, but also as a chance to continue that all-important communication. Exercise also can help relieve anxiety and depression, which are tied to drug use.
Resolve to Lock Your Meds
Prescription drug abuse among teens is a serious problem in this country. Many parents don’t think this is a concern in their homes because they just assume their kids would never raid their medicine cabinets, not realizing that pills are among the most widely abused and accessible drugs. Even if you trust your kids, secure and keep track of your prescriptions—particularly any opioids—in 2017. Your teens might not be tempted, but removing the temptation never hurts.
Resolve to Send Clear Messages About Drugs
In the coming year, continue to emphasize that any alcohol, drug or tobacco use is unacceptable. Strong and clear messages, even if your teens seem to resist, ultimately resonate with healthy kids; when presented with a choice to use substances or decline, they fall back on your parenting to make the wise decision. Unfortunately, some parents say they are for smart choices, but their actions suggest otherwise. For example, a parent might think hosting an after-prom party with alcohol might be a safer choice, but it actually puts kids at greater risk. Be direct and firm with the messages you give your teens. If you want healthy kids, you can’t be afraid to mince words or act indecisively.
What resolutions have you made for 2017?