Media Contact
Rich Batten
Colorado Department of Human Services
303.866.3808
Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group
303.320.7790

March 26, 2009

Raising Teenagers Today

For many fathers, adolescence is a time when children begin to pull away – looking for their own identities and freedom. Often, these abrupt changes can cause parents to wonder about the best way to approach their children without driving them away. Fortunately, there are resources available for Colorado fathers to help guide their children through their teenage years while maintaining, and even strengthening, their relationships.

In 2001, the Harvard School of Public Health issued a report compiled from more than 300 reviews of research on teen development entitled "Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action." The Harvard Project found that the manner in which parents contribute significantly to healthy adolescent development fall into these five general categories:

1. Love and connect. Teens need parents to develop and maintain a relationship with them that offers support and acceptance while also accommodating and affirming their increasing maturity. Spend time just listening to your teen’s thoughts and feelings
about his or her fears, concerns, interests, ideas, perspectives, activities, jobs, schoolwork and relationships.

2. Monitor and observe. Teens need parents to be aware of—and let teens know they are aware of—their activities, including school performance, work experiences, after-school activities, peer relationships, adult relationships and recreation. This process should increasingly involve less direct supervision and more communication, observation  and networking with other adults. Evaluate the level of challenge of proposed teen activities, such as social events, media exposure and jobs, matching the challenges to your teen’s ability to handle them.

3. Guide and limit. Teens need parents to uphold a clear but evolving set of boundaries, maintaining important family rules and values, but also encouraging increased competence and maturity. Maintain family rules - upholding some non-negotiable rules around issues like safety and central family values - while negotiating other rules around issues like household tasks and schedules. Loosen up, but don’t let go.

4. Model and consult. Teens need parents to provide ongoing information and support around decision making, values, skills, goals and interpreting and navigating the larger world, teaching through examples and ongoing dialogue. Give teens opportunities to practice reasoning and decision making by asking questions that encourage them to think logically and consider consequences, while providing safe opportunities to try out their own ideas and learn from their mistakes.

5. Provide and advocate. Teens need parents to make available not only adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, but also a supportive home environment and a network of caring adults. Make informed decisions about available options for schools
and educational programs, taking into account such issues as safety, social climate, approach to diversity, community cohesion, opportunities for peer relationships and mentoring and the match between school practices and your teen’s learning style and
needs.

“Even though your teenager may not be thrilled to do what you do, your behavior and communication still has an important impact on them,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Research affirms that parents who have stronger connections to their teen tend to have more influence with regard to their decisions, as do parents who choose ways of conveying ideas that are respectful of their teen’s growing maturity of thought and action.”

In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal community access grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative distributes more than $1.2 million in community awards to state, community and faith based organizations to assist in providing direct services to fathers and families. Awards of up to $50,000 are distributed per program per fiscal year. For more information on a fatherhood program in your community, please visit www.coloradodads.com.