ABC15 News Special Report: Raising Teens – An Interview with JWBC

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The teenage years are a time of dramatic changes in the way kids think and act.

Experts say brain development can lead to behavioral and psychological changes, and as parents, you might find yourselves butting heads more often than not.

Studies show family relationships are a key source of influence for teenagers.

ABC 15 is working for you to help strengthen those relationships and ease the frustrations of raising a teen.

“Disrespectful behaviors, acting out behaviors, and a lot of it is verbal aggression,” said Kim Parsons, JusticeWorks Behavioral Care.

If you recognize any of these behaviors, you might have a teenager.

Becky Cain has two teenagers. She said being a parent to her children can be testing at times.

“I had some pulling-out-my-hair moments,” said Cain.

The journey through adolescence can be tough for teens and parents.

“Raising 15-year-old girls can get a little mind blowing,” said Tammy Johnson, parent of teenagers.

“It’s an exciting stage, but it’s challenging at times,” said Cain.

To find out what can make that challenge easier, ABC15 went to the experts at JusticeWorks Behavioral Care, an organization that helps kids and families deal with problems and negative behaviors.

“The biggest thing I really see is a disconnect between the parents and the children,” said Thomas Muse, JusticeWorks Behavioral Care.

They have five major tips to make raising teens less stressful.

Step one is to sit down or eat dinner together and talk.

“Ask, ‘How was your day? What’s going on? How is your life going?” said Parsons. “Everybody gets so caught up in their own lives, sometimes it takes away from the simple things we forget that are really important.”

Tip two is be aware. Know who your child’s friends are and where they hang out.

“A lot of people think, ‘It’s not my child, that is never going to happen to my child,’ and the blinders are on,” said Parsons.

Suggestion three is, when trying to warn your teen about the dangers of smoking, for example, your cancer argument might not bear any weight.

Instead, stay in the moment.

Parsons said teens tend to only care about the short term.

“If you just focus in on, ‘Well, maybe your teeth will turn yellow,’ or, ‘You’ll have bad breath,’ or something like that,” said Parsons.

Their next piece of advice is to make sure your teen knows it’s okay to talk to you about anything, and stay calm if they do.

“When you have that relationship and the kids come to you and say, ‘Hey, I tried drugs,’ or ‘I slept with my boyfriend,’ you don’t overreact. You don’t hammer them,” said Muse. “You say, ‘How did it feel? What was it like? Did anyone pressure you? Thank you so much for coming to me.’

Then later you can freak out and go to your husband or wife and say, ‘Oh my gosh, you won’t believe what our son or daughter said.’ But, in that moment, you need to support them.”

The next tip is to praise them.

“That’s one easy way of giving kids that support that’s so vital is just telling them, ‘I’m proud of you,” said Parsons.

Experts say it’s never too late to build your relationship.

“It could be something as simple as playing basketball or going camping,” said Muse.

If and when punishment is necessary, experts say be consistent and follow through with the consequences.

There’s no perfect formula and it’s not easy. It takes time, effort and patience to raise a child. But, over time, parents discover what methods work for best during those emotional teenage years.

“Discipline in sports has been key to keep them out of trouble and keep them busy,” said Johnson.

“Just give them some guidance along the way and, if they do stumble and fall, be there to pick them up too,” said Cain.

And, cherish those moments. After all, the years between “goo-goo-ga-ga” and graduation go by so fast.

“You just go one day at a time, raising them,” said Cain. “I can’t believe they’re 15 and 19 already, but so far I think I’ve done an okay job, hopefully.”

A 2016 study by Arizona State University found that mothers of middle school students experienced the most stress.

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