Tips on how to have the hard conversations with your teen….and just some of the things it might be difficult to chat with them about!
Just because your teen has reached a stage where they think they know everything (don’t worry, they’ll tell you!)… it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to them about things that are important. In fact, it’s actually more reason to do so. As they are now smack-bang in the time of their life where they are most eager to explore, it’s also where they may encounter situations that are life-altering or even dangerous.
I promise you they’ll be talking about these issues amongst themselves – and possibly even in some specific school subjects plus it’s likely they’ve googled it all too… BUT as a parent it’s you who is ultimately responsible for ensuring they are armed with accurate and timely information. Even when ‘those’ talks present as all-kinds-of awkward.
- sex and sex-related issues such as sexual relationships, masturbation, sexual health, gender identity and contraception
- substance use and effects
- online issues including sexting, grooming, harassment
- family finances
- personal health issues
All of the above can be difficult for adults to deal with, and the very thought of discussing topics such as these with your teens could have you flustered and feeling awkward. It’s a natural reaction for parents to deny their babes are almost at adulthood BUT conversations around such topics as the above are crucial to your teen’s well being…. despite any embarrassment you may feel.
When it’s time to brace yourself for chats like these, there are actually some strategies you can put in place to minimise the squirminess. Here are a things you can try…
Be sure that you’ve researched and are knowledgeable about the topic….
Before you start any hard conversation with your teen, do educate yourself about the topic you’re wanting to discuss. It’s likely they’ll already have some school yard knowledge and beliefs around it and probably more misconception than fact. Do some googling, reading… or ask others for information; as your teen will spot a lack of knowledge immediately. If they doubt you know what you’re talking about, they may not take the conversation seriously.
Ask the correct questions, in the right way…
Avoid nagging and interrogating your child, as these are two sure communication killers when it comes to teens. Instead, focus on asking questions which will allow your child to talk about his or her opinion without feeling judged. Pause often enough to let them fully have their say and to demonstrate you are hearing them.
Breathe in… then out…. and stay calm…
Staying calm may not come easily during some of the hard chats but it’s important to keep your cool no matter what you might hear from your teen. Showing an immediate response of anger or annoyance without taking time to process what you’ve heard can make them less likely to open up to you in future. A calm and measured response to what they may tell you is much more effective and also models great communication skills. Remember you’re looking to develop and cement your relationship and therefore biting your tongue and waiting for a calmer time to address issues is a good way to play the situation.
Most hard conversations are not just a one-off…
One of the reasons many of these issues are so difficult to talk about, is because they are so crucial. Don’t just plan for a single talk on these matters, as once the subject is broached it will probably need to be spoken of again. Of course, further conversations should be much less awkward once the path has been paved for open and honest discussion. Persist in having those conversations with your teen about the difficult topics you need to discuss. Once-offs don’t allow for thinking time where they may need to consider what you’ve said. Of course, too your teen might think of some other questions related to the topic so it’s wise to check in with them from time to time to see if they need clarification or have further questions.
As parents, we may not always realise it, but we play a hugely important role in helping our teens when it comes to decision making. Taking the time to talk with our teens – and having the hard and squirmy conversations – can have a big impact on their future. So, no matter how hard the topic is, suck in some deep breaths and launch a chat on the things that need to be spoken about.