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So, You Have a Teenager

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Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

That funny little quote came from a booklet put together by an organization called "Shoulder to Shoulder; Raising Teens Together." It is distributed by the University of Minnesota Extension Service in conjunction with various county and city departments in the Twin Cities. It has a lot of tips and tricks for dealing with your teenager, and I want to highlight a few things this week.

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Before we get into the thick of it, let's focus for a few moments on what it means to be a teenager in our society these days. First and foremost, there's sex. We all know it's everywhere, and apparently, "Sex Sells." It's evidenced in the mini-mini skirts that girls are wearing these days and the fact that Victoria's Secret now makes a line called Pink, which is marketed toward teenagers.

And, of course, where there's sex, there are STD's. I heard a statistic the other day about the number of people with HIV who don't know it, and it's some astronomical figure. It's quite probable that a large number of those people are teenagers. They don't realize the stark reality of having sex with numerous partners; how a virus that girls can get called HPV can lead to cervical cancer; that you can get diseases in your mouth from giving oral sex; that the HIV virus is much smaller than the average hole in a condom. It's very, very scary.

And, of course there are drugs; meth being one of the most dangerous drugs out there. "They" say that one use can make you addicted. Have you heard what it can do to your mouth and your body? It rots away your teeth, and depletes the calcium in your bones so that they're brittle and break.

But, enough with the bad news. Let's talk about keeping kids safe, because that's what our job is as parents. According to "Shoulder to Shoulder," we should:

? Know where our teens are - especially on evenings and weekends.

? Let teens know that using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs is illegal and unacceptable, and that it would upset you - very much.

? Monitor television programs teens watch (they are not able to decide these things for themselves - they don't know what's okay and what's not).

? Set rules about the music teens listen to.

? Know how teens are doing in school. Don't blow off parent-teacher meetings.

? Monitor Internet use. This is a big on. Keep the computers in "public" rooms of the house.

? Try to eat together on a regular basis - without the TV, please.

? Curfews are good. Enforce them. And know the curfew laws in your community.

? Check in when teems come home from school.

? Have family routines.

These are some tried and true strategies for keeping our teens out of trouble, safe, and happy. And remember, the best antidote to teenage problems is a good, honest conversation between parent and teen - openness and honesty are the best policies, on both your parts. For more information, go to www.shouldertoshoulderminnesota.org.

Heather Bjur is a counselor specializing in marriage and family counseling at Christian Counseling Center in West Fargo.

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