Fatherhood is one of the world’s greatest challenges, and many dads would agree that parenting teens is the toughest challenge of a father’s life. If your children have reached their teenage years, or are getting close to doing so, consider the following 3 tips for dads on parenting teens:

1. Be Their Dad, Not Their Friend

One of the most common mistakes I see dads making is trying to be their teens’ friend. Don’t do this. Your teens have plenty of friends. They don’t need you to be another friend. What they really need is a caring and empathetic authority figure – and you, as their father, are the person who is best situated to be that for them.

Of course, you want your teenagers to like you. It’s upsetting to think that your teens might perceive you as embarrassing and uncool.

There are parents who try to compensate for the embarrassing un-coolness by giving their teens alcohol or drugs. I knew a couple of guys who made this mistake with their teenage sons. In both cases, their teenagers soon after became alcoholics.

Fact: You are inviting trouble if you give your teenagers alcohol. The truth of this is confirmed by a study published in Lancet Public Health. The researchers in this study found that teens whose parents gave them alcohol had higher odds of future binge consumption, greater chances of alcohol-related harm and increased risk for symptoms indicating alcohol use disorder.

Furthermore, 3 out of 4 teens admit that their parents influence them heavily when they make decisions about whether to drink or use drugs. If you give your kids alcohol, of course they will infer from this behaviour that you approve of them drinking. Is this the outcome you want?

Avoid giving your teens booze or drugs. Instead, have the backbone to be the authority figure your teens need.

2. Empower, Don’t Push

What dad hasn’t made mistakes in life? You’ve no doubt made them, and you want to save your kids from repeating those mistakes.

That’s great.

However, it’s ideal if you can channel your helpful advice in a direction that empowers your teens rather than pushing them.

Dads can be particularly pushy when it comes to giving their teens career advice. There are dads who will practically choose their teens’ careers for them, if given the chance. This is not your place.

Instead, it’s good to give your children suggestions that will help empower them. For example, you could encourage them to get work experience and learn how to network. Take them to attend career fairs so they can get information on heaps of different careers. Make sure they get enough information about their choices that they can make well-considered career decisions on their own.

3. Enjoy Distraction-Free Family Meals Together

It’s essential for dads to spend quality time with their kids, and family mealtimes are an ideal time to accomplish this. Mealtimes are daily opportunities to connect with your teenagers in a relaxed, comfortable setting.

Research actually confirms that teens benefit emotionally from sharing mealtimes with their families. Eating together as a family can help to protect teens from engaging in high-risk behaviours such as abusing drugs, alcohol or nicotine. Teens are also less likely to experience symptoms of depression if they eat meals with their families regularly.

Before you agree to skip dinner and stay late at work, it’s definitely worth considering what you’ll be giving up. Be aware that your family probably needs you at mealtimes more than your employer does.

Parenting teenagers is one of the most arduous challenges you’re likely to face in life. If you’re a dad with teenagers, we hope these tips will be useful in helping you to successfully navigate through the most trying times you’ll experience.

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Author, Freelance writer