On big decisions, teens still want help

Open communication with parents is key to smooth navigation of adolescence, according to "Teens Today," a new study by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving Drunk) and the Liberty Mutual Group. According to the research, teen drug use, sex, drinking, and drunk driving are all negotiable behaviors - not inexorable phases in children's paths to maturity.

The new findings show that teens who talk openly with their parents are much more likely to say that parents' punishment has prevented them from repeating old mistakes: 80 percent of those with communicative parental relationships claimed they hadn't made the same blunders, while only 46 percent of those with less open interactions said they'd avoided old pitfalls. Over a third of teens who lacked open conversations with parents said they wished they could communicate differently, whereas only 20 percent of teens with communicative relationships longed for a change. Adolescents who spoke freely with parents were also more likely to strive to meet Mom's and Dad's expectations.

Asked how their parents might help them tackle the teenage years, the teens suggested that parents enforce curfew rules and stay up until they return home, initiate conversations about tough decisions, call friends' parents to make sure they're being supervised while away from home, ask them to check in during evenings out, and, when rules are broken, enforce consequences. Those are requests rarely heard amid teen tumult, but it seems that adolescents want their parents, after all.

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