Linking Lives: Parenting Your Teens - The Center for Latino ...

Linking Lives: Parenting Your Teens - The Center for Latino ...





Linking Lives: Parenting

Young Teens

Linking Lives Health Education Program

Linking Lives: Parenting Young Teens

“For the life of me, I can’t understand how this happened. I just can’t believe it. I know that teenagers

today are irresponsible, but I didn’t think this would happen to our family. What did I do wrong? I

talked with her about all of this. It must be that friend of hers, Rosa. What are my friends going to say?

I try not to be upset, but it really upsets me. What could I have done differently? I should have been

more strict. I should not have let her hang out with those friends. She just never listens to me. And that

father of hers should have done something. Why didn’t he lay down the law with her? Why didn’t he at

least talk to her? I guess it’s just a matter of bad luck. That’s it, bad luck. How could she do this?”

The above comments were made by the mother of a

14-year-old girl who just found out she is pregnant. The

comments are interesting because they touch on many

aspects of teen problem behaviors. To name just a

few, the mother wonders who to blame: the daughter

for being “irresponsible,” the peer group (Rosa), the

father, the mother herself, or maybe it was just “bad

luck.” There are questions about discipline (being more

strict); there are questions about communication; there

are emotions (being upset) and fear of rejection (what

will my friends think?).

What could the mother have done? Should she have

been more strict? Is there anything that she could

have said to her teen to prevent this? Why didn’t the

father talk to his daughter? These are some of the

questions that the Linking Lives Health Education

Program is addressing.



The teen years are a time of change for your child. Your child is in the process of moving from being a child to becoming

an adult. This process is difficult, both for you and your child. In the Linking Lives program, we give you information about

teens to help you better understand them. We will help you to parent and talk to your teen more effectively. Our goal is to

give you information and skills to help your son or daughter avoid problems like the one described above and to help your

teen become a healthy and productive adult.

Problem Behaviors: Preventing Unhealthy Choices

Some teens get into trouble by using drugs, by drinking

alcohol, by smoking cigarettes, or by having sex when

they are too young. Most teens do not do these things,

but some do. And when they do, they may be hurting

themselves and their families.

Almost all teens will find themselves in situations where

they will have the chance to do things like have sex. What

is important is that they make the right decision not to

do these things. If offered the opportunity to have sex,

you want your teen to say “no.” If offered drugs, you want

your teen to say “no.”

Because the opportunities will be there for your teen

someday (and maybe sooner than you think), you want to

prepare your teen to say “no.” You want to give your

teen the tools to know what is right from what is wrong,

what is healthy from what is unhealthy. And you want

your teen to make the right choices. Linking Lives will

help you do this.

In Linking Lives, we discuss in detail one problem

behavior—having sexual intercourse too early. It is

important for you to talk with your teen about not

having sex for many reasons. First, sex at a young age

is unhealthy. Your teen is still growing and having sex

may have a negative effect on his/her physical and

psychological growth. By having sexual intercourse at this

time in his/her life, your teen is increasing the chances

of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV,

an unplanned pregnancy, and many other serious life

consequences. Second, research suggests that having sex

may encourage teens to do other risky things, like drink

alcohol. Once a teen has “crossed the line” by having sex, it

may be easier for the teen to cross it again for things such

as drugs or alcohol. So, discouraging teens from having sex

may help avoid other problems. Third, most people who

are sexually active find it very hard to stop engaging in

that behavior. Once a teen starts having sex, it is likely that

he/she will not stop having sex (although sexually active

teens need to know this is an option for them).

For the sake of your child’s well-being, you need to talk with

him/her about sex. We will give you tips for doing this.

Positive Parenting

There is more to parenting than just keeping kids out of

trouble. Although this is important, you also want your

child to do well in life and be a good person. Linking

Lives will give you tools to help you parent in a positive

way. After working through our materials, you will have a

better idea of what young teens are going through. You

will be better able to talk to your teen and to improve

your relationship with him/her. You will learn ways to give

your teen confidence. You will learn how to help your teen

form healthy relationships with other teens. Life is not

just about staying out of trouble. It’s about feeling good

about yourself, building strong relationships with friends

and family, and setting goals for yourself and reaching

them. You can help your teen with all of this!

Parents Make a


Some parents think there is not much they can do to help

their teen. Adolescence is seen by some parents as a time

when teens are rejecting their parents and becoming

more independent.

So what influence can a parent have? Some parents

think that biological changes are influencing their teen

and there is not much they can do about these changes.

Other parents think their teen is just going through a

“stage” and there is not much that can be done until they

“grow out of it.”

There has been a lot of research on this topic and the

good news is that parents can make a big difference. Your

teen is affected by what you say and what you do, so it is

important for you to take an active role in your teen’s life.



The Linking Lives Health Education Program

In Linking Lives, we give you information that will help you make a difference. If you follow our advice, you can reduce the

chances that your teen will get into trouble. You owe this to your family and to your teen. By using Linking Lives, you will

improve your relationship with your teen and you will help him/her avoid many of the problems that our youth face today.

Act now by reading Linking Lives and talking with your teen about important issues.

The Linking Lives parent manual has nine sections and two additional companion booklets for adolescents. You can read

these in any order you want. You can refer back to any of them on later occasions. Here are some of the points we cover

in each booklet:

Section in Manual Contents




• Overview of Linking Lives


The Physical Changes Your Teen is Going Through

• How Teenagers Think

• Teen Friendships: The Social World of Teenagers

• Teenagers and Emotions: What are They Feeling?

• Teen Morals: When is Something Right, When is it Wrong?



• Common Parenting Styles

• How to Discipline Your Teen

• Making Agreements with Teens

The Importance of Monitoring and Supervision






• How to Start a Talk

• How to Talk with Teens Who Don’t Want to Talk

• Practical Tips for Talking with Teens

• Giving and Receiving Criticism



• Why a Good Relationship is Important

• What a Good Relationship is

• Practical Tips for Building a Good Relationship



The Nature of Teen Friendships

The Different Kinds of Peer Pressure Your

Teen Faces

• How Your Teen Can Resist Peer Pressure

• What to Do When Your Teen Has a Friend Who

is a Bad Influence

• Helping Your Teen Make Friends





• What is Self-Esteem?

• Practical Tips for Building Self-Esteem

• How Coping Skills are Essential to Self-Esteem

Parenting Styles that Promote Self-Esteem


• How Many Teens are Sexually Active

• Why Teens Have Sex

The Dangers of Teen Sex

• How to Prevent Your Teen from Having

Sex Prematurely



• Types of Birth Control Methods Used by Teens

• Discussing Birth Control with Your Teen

• Information on Condoms —Types, How to Use and

Care for Them



How to Use the Handbook

In this handbook, we give you information about teens, as well as advice for

parenting and improving communication with your teen. In the final sections,

we talk about sex and birth control. We suggest that you read each section (the

order does not matter) and underline, with a pen or a pencil, what you think

are the most important points. This will help you to identify the key points for

the future, if you decide to re-read the materials later. In addition, review the

adolescent companion booklets, and encourage your teen to do the same, as

you see fit. Doing so will help get both of you on the same page, and make your

discussion easier.

We have found that some parents read the handbook and agree with it, but do

not act on the advice we give. This advice will be of little value unless you use it.

Remember, it does no good to know what to do for your teen unless you actually

do it! So get started now —you will be glad you did!

The teen years start at age 13, but most 11- and 12-year-olds are already part of

the teenage world. Linking Lives will talk with you about teenagers, but what we

say also applies to 11- and 12-year-olds. Also, you should feel free to share Linking

Lives with any other adult figure in your family who you think might talk to your

teen about problem areas such as sex, smoking, alcohol or drugs, or who might be

like a “parent” to your teen. The more the better!


The Linking Lives Health Education Program: “Families Talking Together” was developed by:

Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Ph.D. James Jaccard, Ph.D. Patricia Dittus, Ph.D.

New York University New York University Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Silver School of Social Work Silver School of Social Work Division of STD Prevention

1 Washington Square North 1 Washington Square North 1600 Clifton Rd, MS E-44

New York, NY 10003 New York, NY 10003 Atlanta, GA 30333

The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Bernardo Gonzalez, Eileen Casillas, and Sarah Collins, who worked diligently on preparing the program for dissemination. The

authors also wish to acknowledge the hundreds of Latino and African American families who contributed to the development of our parenting program. Special gratitude is extended to all

of the educators, research assistants, project assistants, and graduate students who contributed to the Linking Lives program. Questions about the Linking Lives Health Education Program:

Families Talking Together should be directed to:

Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Ph.D. or James Jaccard, Ph.D.

Linking Lives Health Education Program /

The Linking Lives Health Education Program is an initiative of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. CLAFH is a research

center that investigates the role of the Latino family in shaping the development and well-being of Latino adolescents. CLAFH’s research addresses key issues that affect Latino families.

Specifically, CLAFH seeks to: 1) foster the development, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based family interventions designed to prevent and/or reduce problem behaviors among

Latino adolescents; 2) develop, evaluate, and disseminate family interventions for positive youth development approaches to Latino adolescent development and well-being; 3) examine

issues of immigration related to the experiences of Latino families; and 4) promote the economic well-being of the Latino community. Strategically based in New York City, CLAFH addresses

the needs of New York’s diverse Latino communities in both national and global contexts. The Center serves as a link between the scientific community, Latino health and social service

providers, and the broader Latino community.

The material in this handbook was developed from current research in the social sciences as well as practical tips that have been gleaned from clinicians and writers in the popular press.

Useful sources that we drew upon and adapted included “Straight Talk with Kids” published by the Scott Newman Center, “Saying No is Not Enough” by Robert Schwebel (1989, New York:

Newmarket Press), the DHHS Publication ADM-86 1418 on self esteem and the writings of Bruce Baldwin and Marion Howard’s “How to Help Your Teenager Postpone Sexual Involvement”

(1991, New York: Continuum Press).

Graphic Consultant: Kate Hogan

Linking Lives Health Education Program

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