Adolescents make up 15% of Florida's population. Adolescence is a critical period in child development characterized by distinctive physical, emotional and intellectual changes and accompanied by changes in social roles, relationships, and expectations, all of which are important for the development of the individual youth and to build the foundation necessary for functioning as an adult. The development of healthy adolescents is a complex and evolving process that requires the care and support of families, peers, schools, and communities.
Teenagers are growing toward adulthood. Part of this transition includes learning how to handle challenging and at times difficult situations. Teens need to have the opportunity to:
Often this development includes risks. Risks can be good or bad, potentially healthy or unhealthy. Don't be afraid of your teen taking risks. Most teens get involved in healthy and challenging behaviors, some of which can be risky, such as mountain biking, skateboarding, and extreme sports.
Pre-teens and teens experience significant brain growth until they reach their early- to mid-twenties. While this is happening, teens do not always accurately weigh the good and the bad of risks when making decisions. They need their parents and other caring adults to guide, encourage, and instruct them so they will choose healthy risks and avoid unhealthy risks.
Positive risk-taking can lead to real growth and development for teens. But getting involved in unhealthy risks can lead to educational, health, and emotional problems. Unhealthy risks include alcohol, drug, and tobacco use, sex, and violence. (Risk-taking also can involve computers and the Internet, and video games.
One unhealthy risk often leads to another:
The good news is that lots of teens never get involved in unhealthy and risky behaviors. The bad news is that lots do:
The other good news is that parents can help protect their teens from unhealthy behaviors. Parents who share their values and their love help protect their children.
Positive Youth Development
The newly formed Office of Positive Youth Development at the Florida Department of Health is designed to help youth, families and communities deal with these risks in a positive manner. The first initiative of the Office of Positive Youth Development is called E3- Educating Youth, Equipping Parents and Empowering Communities.
The purpose of the E3 Initiative is to enhance the skills and improve the health status of Florida's adolescents and young adults through opportunities and programs developed in collaboration with families, communities, schools and other public and private organizations throughout Florida.
E3 will provide a network of community-based support to help adolescents succeed as they move into adulthood by focusing on the "assets" of individual youth and their families. E3 sponsored programs will reinforce positive attitudes, healthy behaviors and activities, and reduce risk-taking behaviors, such as sexual activity, substance abuse, suicide and behaviors that increase risk of unintentional injury and chronic disease.
Enjoying a Good Relationship with Your Son or Daughter
Whether you are married, a single parent, a grandparent, or guardian, you can enjoy a good relationship with your child, pre-teen or teen. You can do this by being available for your son or daughter, showing that you love him or her, and building trust between you and your son or daughter.
It's also important that you act like a parent. What do we mean by that? A lot of parents try to be their son or daughter's friend. That's not what he or she needs from you. He or she needs you to be a parent. This means setting rules and boundaries to guide them and to keep them safe. Sometimes, your son or daughter may not like you, and he or she will get angry at you - like when you enforce the rules. (And let's face it: this is a normal part of being a parent.) But he or she will love and respect you. Here are some more suggestions:
Being Available. Spend as much time as you can with your son or daughter. But even if you have to work a lot, maybe even more than one job to take care of your family, you can still be available to your son or daughter. You can show that you are available by listening when your son or daughter asks a question or wants to tell you about something that's happened. And find things to do and places to go together.
It's important to be involved in your child's life. This is true for mothers and fathers - research shows that mothers and fathers make a big difference for children. Studies show that mothers and fathers are just as important for helping children be healthy and do well in school. It is important that mom and dad be involved even if they are not living together, and even if mom or dad is not living with the children.
Showing Your Love. When it comes to making your child, pre-teen or teen feel loved, what you do is as important as what you say. Your son or daughter needs to see that you care. Go to his or her school and after-school events, like plays or sporting events. Meet with your son or daughter's teachers. Do something with your son or daughter that he or she likes to do - go to the mall, a ball game, or a movie. Start a conversation with him or her. A good way is to just ask a question about what's going on at school or other activities.
By being available for your son or daughter and showing your love, and treating him or her with respect you will build trust between the two of you.
Give your child hope for the future. Help him or her identify his or her goals. Let him or her know that you believe he or she can achieve these goals. Tell him or her that you will do whatever you can to help. And talk about what you hope for your son or daughter when it comes to building their own family. Tell them why marriage can be a happy and healthy relationship. Even if you are not married, you can teach your son or daughter why you hope he or she has a good marriage.
Give your pre-teen or teen responsibility. Teach him or her to respect themselves and other people. Your son or daughter must know what can happen if he or she makes bad choices.
Show respect to your child, and expect respect in return. Listen to your son or daughter. Treat their ideas and opinions seriously. Let your son or daughter know that you expect to be treated with respect because you are the parent.
Help your child to be emotionally and physically healthy. It's important for pre-teens and teens to eat well and exercise. Encourage your son or daughter to exercise, whether that means playing on a basketball team or going for walks in the neighborhood. Have family meals together, when the television is off and the family is together around the table.
Encourage your child to get enough rest. As teenagers grow up, they need even more sleep than most adults. It might look like "laziness," but it is really a need for sleep.
For more information please visit the following sites:
Abstinence Education Information
Underage Drinking, Drug Use and Sexual Activity
Teenage Sexual Activity, Depression and other Emotional Consequences
Obesity, Depression and Low Self-Esteem
Truancy and other Risk Factors