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How to Talk to Your Teen About Difficult Topics

by Patrick Bailey

The importance of effective parent-child communication cannot be stressed enough considering its impact on the lives of every member and the family as a whole. When parents know how to communicate whether through verbal or nonverbal means effectively, their relationship with their children is greatly improved. Essentially, when parents and children know how to communicate effectively, then they can maintain good relationships as well.

Good communication between parents and children have been found to be beneficial, particularly during adolescent years, as it can improve the adolescent child’s self-worth and may even deter alcohol addictionand

other forms of substance abuse, among others. Given its inherent value, parents should be willing to exert time and effort to build an open line of communication with their children, especially during the sensitive and difficult teen years.

Preparing Yourself for Difficult Conversations  

If you are a parent, you probably already know that talking to your small children is much easier than talking to your teenage kids. Apart from the fact that young kids adore and worship their parents, the range of topics you discuss with them are fairly easy and stress-free.

The same cannot be said when you converse with teens, especially when you have to discuss difficult topics such as sex, drugs, academic issues, self-harm, and many others. While talking about these things can be uncomfortable, you should muster up the courage to have a conversation with your teens on these sensitive issues because if not, other people will.

While there is no single foolproof guide that you can follow to make difficult conversations easy, there are things you can do to make the ordeal less difficult, such as:

  • Seek and Learn – You can start researching and learning more about the controversial topics that concern your teenage children. This way, you have a ready answer should they bring them up out of the blue.

  • Practice – You can also try to rehearse your answer, so you can find the explanation that suits your teens’ readiness and level of understanding. This is particularly important if the topic is controversial given your family background and belief system.

  • Initiate – You can find occasions to discuss certain topics yourself even without them asking. For instance, when you are talking and the subject of texting or social media comes up, you can take this as a chance to educate your children about the dangers of exchanging online messages with people they do not personally know.

Tips to Manage Difficult Conversations with Teens  

As a parent, you are in the best position to help and guide your teenagers in the right direction. Assisting them in their journey to adulthood means embracing and managing even the most difficult conversations so that they can gain wisdom and learnings needed in life.

If you feel inadequate, remember that you are the best person for the job since nobody in the world desires the best for your teen more than you do. To help you out, here are more tips that you can consider when you communicate with your teens about difficult topics:

Maintain Your Composure

While you may be shocked to know that your seemingly innocent child is pondering about topics that you might find inappropriate such as pornography or sex, you should try and stay calm. Keep in mind that you do not only communicate with words but with your body and facial expression as well.

If you express how shock or upset you are, your teen may no longer open up. If you stay composed, however, your child will feel confident that he or she can talk to you about anything; thereby, further strengthening your relationship.

Listen to What Your Teen Has to Say

Listening is more important in building a healthy line of communication than talking. Before you start lecturing or sharing everything you know about the subject, give your child the chance to talk and listen attentively. Below are some of the things that you can do to become a good listener:

  • Give your full attention – when your child shows any intention that he or she wants to talk with you, make sure that you give them your full attention. If you are reading the paper, put it down or turn the television off if you are watching. Ultimately, eliminate all possible distractions so you can focus fully on what your child wants to discuss.

  • Keep eye contact – when your child is talking, maintain eye contact as this is a way to show that you are interested in what they say. If you are looking somewhere else or barely making any eye contact, the opposite message may be conveyed – that you are not interested.

  • Avoid interrupting – if your child is discussing something with you, try to avoid interrupting so that you would not break your teen’s train of thought. Instead of talking, you can encourage your child to talk more through your gestures and facial expressions.

  • Let your teen know you are listening – to assure your teen that you were truly listening, you can summarize what was said after your teen is done talking. Restating what was said is also a good way to correct misunderstandings if there are any.

Use Sentences That Build Communication

To encourage your child to talk more about his or her feelings about the topic and about important concerns that have been bothering him or her, you should use sentences that allow your teen to share more. For instance, you can say, “What do you think about…” if you want your teen to expound on a subject matter. You can also use expressions like, “That’s interesting” or “How do you feel about it?” to help your child know you are interested in his or her thoughts.

Take Control of Your Emotions

Refrain from passing judgment, being overly critical, or being too emotional about what your child is sharing. No matter how upset or uncomfortable your feeling, stick with listening and learning more about what your teen has to say.

Remember that when you criticize your teen’s feelings, ideas, or thoughts, it will not only make him or her more defensive, but it can also lower your teen’s self-esteem. If there’s a need to correct, be clear that you are commenting on the behavior and not your child.

Be Honest

There may be times when your teen might about things you know very little about. When this happens, be honest and admit that you need time to learn more about the issue. You can also suggest, looking the matter up together as this is another way of opening the lines of communication between you two.

There may be times that you are tempted to lie to prove a point. For instance, you may say that you have tried drugs and experienced its negative effects firsthand just to stress the dangers of addiction. What if your lie backfires? What if your teen becomes more curious about using drugs because you lied about it? When this happens, you would either admit that you are lying and lose your credibility or stick to your story and suffer the consequences. Ultimately, you can never go wrong by being honest.

Learning to openly and effectively communicate with your teens is not easy, so consider the pointers above to assist you. There would be times that you would make mistakes, but that is okay. Remember that you are not perfect, no parents are. What matters is that you are willing to correct your shortcomings and exert consistent effort to be good at talking with your kids. Rest assured that your commitment will soon bring fruitful and positive results.

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