Gearing up for summer fun with Decision Making Basics!

Decision Making Basics…

If your teenager has an insatiable appetite for summer fun, feed your soul for the challenges their decisions may present. Discuss your expectations and understand theirs for what the summer is going to look like. We are in unprecedented times just coming out of a pandemic. Many kids (and adults) feel the need to get out and socialize or just enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. These are all healthy things when balanced with the responsibilities of becoming a successful young adult and good decision-making skills.

A few years ago, I engaged in a conversation with a group of moms that I highly respect. One said, let them be kids. They will never get this time back.  Another had their kids working full time, so they were too tired to participate in beach parties, “darties” (aka day parties) and “getties” (aka small get togethers). I feel so hip knowing this lingo… LOL! Others tried to help their kids find a balance between enjoying their summer time and being responsible young adults.

I bring the two extremes up because both suffered severe backlash from their teens.  As I talked the parents through these issues, the biggest issue became apparent. The parents were still in hyper control mode making every decision for their kids not WITH their kids.  Telling their teens what their schedule looked like rather than asking. I'm not suggesting you let your teens run rogue by any means. Ultimately, your teens schedule is managed by you, the parent or guardian. They live under your roof, probably still on your pay roll, and rely on you for guidance and basic living skills.  However, at some point you need to make that transition from parent to coach. This transition brings them into the decision-making process and allows them to exercise some autonomy over their lives.

It is during this important time that we learn how well we have done as parents. Trust me, they WILL make some bad decisions. Talk them through them. Maybe they were dangerous decision like drinking and driving, exploring drugs, or sex! They are exposed to so many things these days. These heavy hitters deserve consequences, but more importantly they deserve open communication and discussion. My rule was always that I needed to find out from them first when they screwed up. They knew a consequence was still coming but it lessened the blow of finding out from a school administrator, the local gossip queens or one of their siblings that was worried about them.

Letting your kids help you set their boundaries for the summer (or anytime) allows them to demonstrate some authority over their decision making. The conversation may go like this, “If you are going to the beach where there will be drinking, you have to promise me you will not drink and drive.”  You must set these boundaries with them. Don’t assume your kid will never make mistakes. Better yet, don’t lend a blind eye to what’s really happening. Have open and honest conversations with them.  Make them own their decisions!

At some point, we must let our kids make some tough decisions. We must let them learn from their mistakes and offer the appropriate consequences to help them grow. The most important aspect of letting teens make decisions is open communication and reflection on both of your parts.  Tip… don’t tell your teen your starting reflective practices with them… it’s sure to earn you a massive eye roll. Instead, model this practice by saying things like… “I was thinking about what happen last night or last week. I didn’t handle it appropriately and I wanted to get your thoughts”.

In the next few weeks, I will share more about consequences and levels of responsibilities. Stay tuned in to to peruse all our blogs, vlogs, anecdotes and more.

Erin E. Harrel, Ph.D.            


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