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going for family walks, rather than eat- ing dinner in front of the TV. “Doing everything you can to connect


with kids while they are in an environment you can control gives them a good foun- dation they can take into the world,” says Atherton, the mother of three teens. Parents have to give trust to gain kids’ trust stresses educator Naomi Katz, of Galilee, Israel, author of Beautiful: Being an Empowered Young Woman. “Create an environment where kids feel like they don’t have to hide or lie about anything,” Katz says. She also encourages parents to empower adolescents in deci- sion making: Rather than telling them not to try drugs or alcohol “because I said so,” provide them real facts to help them draw their own conclusions.


Support Quiet Respites In today’s hyper-connected world, Katz observes, “Social dynamics can get re- ally confusing and painful and impact kids in far-reaching ways. We used to come home from school and be away from those issues until the next day; now that break doesn’t come because of social media and smartphones.”


Katz recommends encouraging journaling or other forms of self- expression to help teens unplug and reflect. Breathing exercises can help calm nerves and allow them to think more clearly in tough social situations before they react. Katz also suggests teens set aside time each week for a feel-good activity like playing sports or music, to give them a reliable source of pleasure and accomplishment, no matter what else is going on in their lives.


Stay Alert to Signs Despite a parent’s best efforts, kids can and will make unhealthy choices, and parents need to be prepared to manage the consequences. If a child is suspected or found to be engaging in dangerous or addictive behaviors like self-harming or an eating disorder, it’s important to address these immediately, seeking pro- fessional help if needed, counsels Katz. Jensen remarks that it’s easier to


learn unhealthy patterns when the brain is malleable, and addictive behaviors are harder to eliminate than if they are acquired as an adult. The signs of unhealthy behaviors can


be subtle, so it’s important to recognize cues without making flash judgments or placing blame, says Atherton, For exam- ple, a parent that notices her teen eating differently or obsessed with working out should consider initiating a conversation with him or her about body image. Talking to teens about images in the media can help them gain a more balanced and positive self-perspective. “You can tell your kids, ‘These advertis- ing images are trying to sell you some- one’s idea of a perfect look, but it’s not reality,’” says Atherton. For whatever issues teens are trying to cope with, parents need to cultivate their own sense of inner calm; to be the rock that they can cling to. “Car- ing adults need to give teens a periodic frontal lobe assist,” says Jensen. “It helps when we share more details and insights about how we organize our lives and make decisions. Modeling the rational- ity and empathy that teenagers may lack can be an effective counterbalance.”


Connect with freelance writer April Thompson, of Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com.


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