Teens are often private—at least when it comes to communicating with their parents. They usually prefer to talk to anyone besides their parents, even if it’s another adult, there’s just something about the dynamic that dissuades them. But sometimes there are sensitive topics that should be discussed with them, even if this seems difficult. It’s all about being understanding, open and reserving judgement. If you want them to feel comfortable talking to you about tricky subjects, the first conversation you have can help shape the rest.
Here are some tips to opening that line of communication with your teen.
Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself (Or Your Teen)
There is no textbook “perfect” or “right” way to have a conversation about difficult topics with your teen. Every teen is different, and so are parents. Keep this in mind to relieve some pressure off of yourself as you enter a conversation with your teen. Also, remember to avoid putting pressure on your teen to have a certain level of willingness to discuss topics with you, to respond in a certain way or even to agree! Instead, choose to approach conversations about sensitive topics with openness for both of you. Choose a place you’re both comfortable and set up some ground rules to ensure no one feels anxious or uncomfortable.
Share Your Values
Image Dick Vos
Keep the conversation relatable and personal by sharing your own values with your teen. Use “I believe” or “I feel” statements, rather than “you should” or “you must,” when covering sensitive issues. There’s a time for setting boundaries and consequences, and there’s a time for open and honest discussion so take this opportunity to share why you feel strongly about what the things you value. Reminding your teen that you’re human never hurts. Share your own story to encourage them to share theirs.
Be Ready to Listen
Remember that this is a discussion with your teen, not a lecture. With that in mind, don’t forget to listen to what your teen has to say. Sometimes we can be distracted or it can be easier to just bulldoze your teen with facts, but giving your teen the opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions will help them to be more open minded to what you have to say.
Above all else, choose to be respectful of your teen during these conversations. Don’t overreact to things they share as this could shut down the discussion. Instead, talk calmly over differences that you might have and work towards a solution together. Use this opportunity to demonstrate respect and kindness, even if your teen doesn’t always act the same. Even when it’s difficult, remember that you are a role model for your teen and they will learn from your actions.
Featured image Don Harder