Talking to your teens about risky behaviours

We know as dads and father figures we need to help our kids wherever possible to educate them about risky behaviours and prevent them taking unhealthy risks. We also know this can prove to be challenging as they become teens! 

Teens may seem more impulsive, irrational and take more risks. The reason for this is their pre-frontal cortex is going through a restructure; this area of the brain controls executive functioning, which includes planning, organisation and thinking before we act and is still developing until the age of 25. 

Research says when fathers and father figures are involved with their children through positive and warm relationships, they can impact a whole host of concerns: everything from, drug and alcohol abuse, to teen pregnancy, to adolescent mental health issues. 

So, it’s important to try and start the conversations about unhealthy and unsafe risks and setting the boundaries and expectations as soon as possible. 

Five top tips to help start a conversation about risk taking 

  1. Think about what you are going to say and how you will say it, before you talk. This will help the conversation to be more relaxed and honest.
  2. Don’t automatically assume the worst. Your child might have already established healthy attitudes to risk taking. Find out about their thoughts and attitudes before you launch into a lecture. Ask what they think about smoking, alcohol, drugs, and other topics.
  3. Explain the why. It’s useful to be able to explain to your child why you don’t want them to engage in the behaviours rather than just saying don’t do it.
  4. You don’t need to be an expert. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to suggest that you and your child work together to find out the answer. Search for reliable information together.
  5. Explain your expectations and negotiate rules with your child. Make it clear what you expect from them. Make sure you apply rules in a consistent and predictable way. No exceptions.
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Mondays with Fathering Project founder Dr. Bruce Robinson
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