When our kids are small, they can often be what I like to call “over-sharers.” They will tell you about their body functions, their honest and candid opinion about anything and you often wonder when they will just be quiet for a moment. Then something strange takes over them as they ride into the teen years; they stop talking to you, retreat and often tell you that you don’t understand.
As a parent, this can be a hard time for us. We are used to being our child’s hero, best friend, and confidant. What did we do to make them not trust us with their feelings anymore? How to we get them to talk with us about complex and tough teen issues like sex, drugs, bullying and more if we can’t even get them to tell us how their school day went beyond a simple “OK”? Here are some tips for how to talk to about tough teen issues with you child so you can possibly open those lines of communication again with your teen or pre-teen.
Tips to Talk About Tough Teen Issues
Try not to always make every conversation a big one. Often, we find ourselves only engaging in conversations about the big stuff with our teens and tweens. We forget that there are things that are on the more neutral ground to talk about. If you can have a friendlier relationship with your teen, you may have an easier time talking to them about tougher issues down the line.
Don’t be confrontational. Look for opportunities to talk about things in natural and casual settings. For instance, let’s say you are watching a movie with your teen and a drug reference or bullying scenario plays out. Mention it and see where the conversation goes. Ask them what they would do in a similar situation. Don’t get too lengthy and don’t make it the Spanish inquisition.
Make sure to give them plenty of opportunities to talk to you. Try not to be busy all the time. Teens are less likely to open up if they feel like you don’t have time for them. If you have a very busy life like most of this, doing this can be challenging. A good way to open the flow of conversation is to invite them to help you with your day to day life such as making dinner.
Listen to your child’s side, but let them know where you stand. While you should remain open and willing to hear your teen’s side of the story, you should not be wishy-washy when it comes to the tough issues because your teen deserves to know exactly where you stand, so there are no miscommunications later. Don’t be gruff or dictatorial about it, but be clear on what they are expected to do and why. Knowing the why is especially important. For instance, tell your teen you don’t want them drinking and tell them the reason is that you love them, it is dangerous and could lead to addiction.
Keep a casual setting to have conversations. Try to have conversations when their friends are around in a casual setting. I have found that when my daughter had friends over, she and her friends will often open up to me more without me even trying. I think it’s because it is more casual and less awkward. Don’t delve too deep into personal beliefs, especially if you don’t know your teen’s friend’s parents beliefs, but have casual conversations about things like dating and bullying when you can. This is not only a great way to open up the line with your child but maybe provide another teen with someone they can trust to talk to as well. Plus, it sets a precedence in your household to establish rules.
How do you talk about tough teen issues with your son or daughter?