Saturday, July 17, 2010

What Do Teens Need from Adults to Thrive? 10 Tips from Teens

As the mother of a teenager (and another son who just recently got out of his teens), I know how difficult it can be to build and maintain good relationships between adults and adolescents. Even though my teenage son would be classified as a “good kid” (i.e., honor roll student, doesn’t do drugs, etc.), I still struggle to talk to him without getting the big “eye roll.” If you’ve raised a teen or are currently doing so, you can probably relate! But experts tell us that we shouldn’t give up trying to improve our relationship with our teen.

Teen Voice 2010: Relationships That Matter to America’s Teens -- a national survey of 1,860 fifteen-year-olds conducted by Search Institute and sponsored by Best Buy -- found a significant gap between the support teens need and the support they receive.

Teen Voice 2010 explored three interlocking concepts:

SPARKS – teens’ deepest passions and interests

VOICE – teens’ confidence, skills and opportunities to influence things that matter to them

RELATIONSHIPS – teens’ access to high-quality resources and relationships that help them nurture their strengths

Teens who scored highly in each of the three areas, they found, do better on every academic, psychological, social-emotional and behavioral outcome studied, suggesting that they are also on the path to success in school, work and life. Sadly, only 7 percent of fifteen-year-olds scored high in all three areas this year.

According to the Teen Voice 2010 findings, too many teens are missing the positive, sustained and meaningful teen-adult relationships they need to thrive. However, helping youth find their sparks and voice is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, caring adults -- parents, teachers, neighbors, grandparents, mentors and coaches -- can have a tremendous impact on the successful development of our nation’s youth by building positive relationships with teens. This starts when we take the time and effort to re-examine the ways we can or could connect with, listen to and seek to nurture teens’ basic strengths.

So, how should adults develop these relationships? Through in-depth interviews with thirty fifteen-year-olds, Teen Voice asked them what adults did and didn’t do that told them that adults cared, were paying attention and really understood them. Here is what they had to say:

10 Tips from Teens to Adults

1. Look at us. Make eye contact.

2. Spend time talking with us. Ask open-ended questions. Build the conversation.

3. Listen. Pay attention. Don’t multi-task or get distracted when you’re with us. Respond to our messages and texts.

4. Be dependable. Do what you say you’re going to do.

5. Show appreciation for what we do. Give compliments. Show that you’re glad to see us or hear from us. Send us personalized cards.

6. Relax. Don’t feel like you have to be on guard.

7. Show that you’re interested. Attend our concerts, games and other events. Ask us to show you what we can do.

8. Laugh with us (and at yourself). Laugh at our jokes. Show us your humor.

9. Ask us to help you. Ask us for our ideas. Share your own, too.

10. Challenge us. Teach us what you know. Push us to do our best.

The following brief video highlights some of the findings from the Teen Voices 2010 survey.

[If you’re reading this post via email, you may need to click on the title of this post to access the video online.]

So, if you’re currently parenting a teen and have given up trying to improve your relationship: Don’t! It can be done, and it’s very important for your teen’s future happiness and success. Go to to learn more about the Teen Voice 2010 survey. And then go talk to a teen…

P.S. Best Buy also has a terrific website for teens called @15. Encourage your adolescent to visit to learn about contests and scholarships, play games, interact with other teens, and much more.


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