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How to Talk With Your Teen About Choices

The ability to make sound decisions is a skill that your teen will need to hone since the choices he makes today affect his future. Some choices are obviously life-changing, while others are small choices that can have a big impact down the road. Every day, teens are faced with choices about jobs, higher education, dating, sex, drugs, alcohol and the like. These “big” choices can come in the form of “little” decisions, such as whether or not to study for an upcoming exam – which can affect his academic success, which can change the quality of college options he will have.
Allowing your teen the latitude of choices is oftentimes much easier than you think and sometimes a lot harder. It’s important to be open to negotiating with your teen prior to letting him make a decision. Discovering happy mediums between what the two of you want always works. Here are other ways to approach the decision-making process with your teen:
Be prepared. Ask yourself whether or not you’re ready to allow your teen the freedom and responsibility that comes along with making his own decisions. After all, you’ve been making most of his decisions for him. Consider the fact that since it’s a new experience, your teen’s decision-making skills must still be developed. Therefore, major decisions should still be your responsibility as a parent.
Reckon with your feelings. Some of your teen’s decisions might make you feel like he doesn’t need you while others will make you proud. The process can cause mixed emotions. Just prepare yourself for it. When the not-so-proud feelings strike, it is important to commend yourself and know that you are doing a good job. It’s also essential to realize that as your teen gets better at making decisions on his own and gains more independence he doesn’t love you any less.
Provide options. An alternative to asking, “What would you like for breakfast?” (and getting a request for something you don’t have in your kitchen) could be, “We can have oatmeal with strawberries or cream of wheat with blueberries for breakfast. Which would you prefer?”
Honor the choice. Prepare to honor the choice your teen makes. If you provide him with a choice, it’s important to stick with the decision he makes. However, that is not necessarily applicable to major decisions. If it’s a major decision, it’s important to take time to discuss it. You can help your teen make healthy decisions by talking about the advantages and disadvantages of making certain choices then letting him decide on his own.
If the solution that your teen prefers is not possible, provide him with an explanation one time then release the situation. By releasing it, you will avoid getting into a power struggle over something you are unable to do.
Talking through the decision-making process will help you and your teen work through major and minor decisions in his life. Your teen will soon develop great decision-making skills with very little effort. Good decision-making skills will also enhance his self-confidence and help him mature.
Trevicia Williams, Ph.D. is a psychologist, speaker, author and talk show host in Dallas. She is a recognized expert in building healthy mother-daughter relationships. Learn more about her at treviciawilliams.com and follow her on Twitter for daily motivation and productivity tips.
Published November 2013