Tough Talks with your Teen
It's not easy talking about sex, drugs, gangs and violence with our teens. But it's a "must do." Here are a few pointers and tips for talking with teens about the very real issues they face.
Timing is Everything
Know that teens will catch us off guard when they decide to ask questions about sex or other "tough" topics. Resist the urge to flee. Try saying, "I'm glad you came to me with that question." This gives us time to think of a response, and will let teens know they can come to parents for advice. It's important to answer the question right away, rather than put off a teen by saying something like - "you're too young to know that!" Chances are, the subject has already come up at school and they're already getting "advice" from their friends. When teens ask questions, look at it as an opportunity to help them learn by sharing our thoughts.
Practice Makes Perfect
As parents, anticipation is our best friend. Anticipate what teens' questions may be about sex, drugs or alcohol, then think about your responses ahead of time. What to say? It's different for each family, but become familiar with typical questions and behaviors that occur during the teen years. Do a little digging around popular teen Web sites to find out what's hot in a teen's world.
Is It Hot In Here?
If you're feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable about a question your teen asks, say so. Acknowledging your own discomfort allows your kids to acknowledge theirs - and may make everyone feel a little less awkward all around. It's also okay for parents to set limits. For example, you do not have to give specific answers about your own teen behaviors.
Stick to the Basics
Teens know hundreds of names for various body parts that would make us blush. We shouldn't try to be cool by using these "hip" terms when talking to teens about tough topics. It won't work. Stick with specific and correct terminology that everyone understands.
Initiate the Conversation
When our kids were young, we didn't wait until they asked if they should look both ways before crossing a busy street. We taught them. Now it's our job to teach teens how to grow into adulthood by educating them about possible risks - sex, drugs, racial profiling and more. Decide what is important for your teens to know, and then teach them early and often. Use everyday, naturally occurring events to initiate conversations with teens about tough topics. For example, books, news articles and TV shows can be good discussion starters.
Reprinted with the permission of the Minnesota Institute of Public Health.
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