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Experts and parents on dealing with teenagers

What the experts say you should do

What do the parenting experts say? Here is a roundup of advice.

  • Lock up the liquor. Alcohol is just too much of a temptation for adolescents and their friends.

  • Encourage your teen to have supervised get-togethers with their friends at your home. If kids are spending the night, be up and around every few hours, bringing in snacks or otherwise making your presence known. ''Don't be fast asleep, three floors up, with a bunch of kids having a party in your basement," said Wellesley parenting coach Joani Geltman.

  • If kids are socializing at your house, keep an eye on the backyard and basement entrances. Shrubberies and backyards are popular places to stow alcohol. Check anything suspicious that guests bring; for example, a water bottle may in fact contain alcohol.

  • Get to know the parents of your child's friends. Talk frankly with them about safety, limits, and supervision at parties. Know ahead of time if they share your views on underage drinking, smoking, co-ed sleepovers, and other issues.

  • Supervise Internet use. Put the computer in the family room, if possible. Don't peer over their shoulder, but do walk by once in a while. Take advantage of parent control functions that allow you to check which websites your teen has been on. Ask to see your child's page on shared sites such as and discuss the dangers of providing too much personal information. Have to leave a curious teen alone in the house? Some parents have been known to disable the computer, or even remove the machine altogether, to eliminate the temptation, said Franklin school psychologist Frank Fitzgerald.

  • Cellphones should be shut off at a certain time, so teens can study, read, and get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Try to enlist your child in deciding on an appropriate hour when they won't make, or take, calls. Some kids want so badly to be connected to their friends that they bring their phones to bed and talk and text-message all night.

  • Don't ask an uncommunicative teen what they are thinking. You probably won't get an answer. Instead, try talking about current events, or watching a teen-relevant movie or TV show together as a jumping-off point for a conversation about teen drinking, sex, or drug use.

  • Acknowledge that your teen will be faced with the temptation to drink, smoke, have sex, or use drugs. Help them practice a ''script" to gracefully decline. ''Kids don't always know how to get out of situations they don't want to be in," Geltman said.

  • Support your teen in their friendships with kids with similar values. Then they'll have a buddy to hang out with at parties and on overnight trips and won't feel like ''the only one" not drinking, smoking, staying out all night, etc.

  • Repeatedly tell your teen and their friends that you will provide them with a ride home at any hour if their safety is at risk.

  • Try not to take self-centered teen behavior personally, but draw the line at disrespectful and insulting comments. Inform your child that they must treat you with respect. Never escalate the situation by trading insults with a teenager, but do withhold special favors and treatment when they are deliberately hurtful or rude. ''I am appalled by how many parents allow their children to talk to them with utter disrespect," said Geltman. ''If kids do it repeatedly, somewhere along the line they have gotten the message that they can."

  • It's OK to give yourself a timeout. You don't have to react to a problem or punish your teen right on the spot. Take a break and think. You may come up with a more thoughtful, less reactive way to handle the issue.


    What parents say on dealing with teens

    What's worked for you in dealing with your teens? Share your ideas with other parents by posting them on or e-mailing (put Teen Tips in subject line). To get the discussion going, Susan Chaityn Lebovits, a Globe correspondent and mother of two, offers her tips and those of other parents she has interviewed.

    Building your relationship:

  • Take note of what music they listen to. It can provide a source of conversation and a clue to how they're feeling.

  • If you see or hear something about your children that upsets you, hold your fire until you've heard their side of the story.

  • Challenge your children to earn your trust. Don't be overly suspicious, but be clear that you want to know where they are and when they'll be home. Be clear on the consequences of breaking the rules and follow through on promised discipline.

  • Cars afford a great time to talk, as your child doesn't feel obligated to make eye contact.

  • Learn to text-message on your cellphone -- it will save your child from embarrassing phone conversations with you in public.

    Sex and drugs

  • If your child tells you that a classmate is using drugs or having sex, try to restrain yourself from blurting out condemnation. Your child may be looking for a way to talk about these issues with you.

  • Telling kids not to do something because it is against the law is not as persuasive as explaining why it is a bad idea. Present facts or talk about news stories on the hazards of sexually transmitted diseases and of drugs and alcohol.

  • Don't make alcohol too appealing by, say, talking about the fun you had at a cocktail party.

    The company they keep

  • If you have doubts about your child's love interest, forbidding the relationship invites sneaking and lying. Instead, invite the person over for dinner; you may find that your first impressions were wrong. If the love interest really is a poor influence, your child may come to that conclusion on his or her own and then need you as a sounding board.

  • If your child is sad about a breakup with a boyfriend/girlfriend -- even of just a few weeks -- don't dismiss it by saying, ''You'll get over it." Put yourselves in their shoes; this may have been the first time they believe they have fallen in love. Help them to move on in their own time. Go for walks or drives together.

    Parents who contributed to this listing are Ellen Epstein Cohen of Newton, Pam Glass of Needham, Ronnie Haas of Needham, and Susan Rosenbaum of Newton.

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