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    Bonding with Your Teen

    "Decide its okay for them to spend time with you and do something together and assume they’ll enjoy it even if they roll their eyes at you." – Marybeth Hicks on bonding.

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As your teen begins to gain self-confidence and follow his or her own agenda, your job as a parent gets more challenging. Teens can be prone to unpredictable and sometimes risky behavior – including experimentation with drugs – during these critical years. But you're still the biggest influence in your teen's life.

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Teens say that parents are the most important influence when it comes to drugs and alcohol. That’s why it’s important to talk — and listen — to your teen. A lot. Take a walk or go for a drive with him. When there’s not much eye contact, he won’t feel like he’s under a microscope. Here’s a look at how brain development can affect teen communication, plus advice on how to talk with your teenager.

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With 87 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 using the Internet -- half of them daily -- and 19 million teens running their social lives via text messages, according to Teens and Technology, a 2005 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it's more important than ever that parents become technology savvy. By staying on top of the latest technology trends and monitoring the way your teens use technology, you can help guide them away from risky online behavior and develop a stronger parent-teen relationship.

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It's important to have a strong bond with your child, especially during adolescence, because it helps reduce his or her chance of engaging in risky behavior. Even though your child might be pulling away, itching for more independence, deep down he wants to be involved in the family and know that you still love and care for him. Here are ways to build and maintain a strong bond with your teen.

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Remember when your parents drilled you with questions about your plans? As annoying as it is to teens, keeping tabs is one of the most important things we can do as parents. If fact, kids who don't have an adult checking in are four times more likely to use drugs than those who do.

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Teen brains and bodies are bursting with energy and idealism — even if it doesn’t always show. Don’t fight it; guide it! Urge your teen to take healthy risks. He may develop a stronger brain and some valuable life skills in the process. Taking healthy risks

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There may be lots of healthy (and cheap!) opportunities right in your community – trying out for a sports team or auditioning for a play, for example. Try getting ideas at the library, his school, or your place of worship. Or from sites like these:

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When you learn to recognize typical teen behavior, you can control your automatic reactions to it and communicate clearly in times of conflict. (It also helps to realize that unhealthy friendships and sleep deprivation can alter a teen’s mood, judgment and behavior in big ways, too.)

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