Talking to Your Teens, Even About Uncomfortable Things
Talking about uncomfortable things such as feelings, relationships, sex, or drugs can be hard. But most teens still want their parents' advice.
Your teens may act like they know everything, but don't be fooled. Most say they still want their parents' guidance and advice. Research shows that teens whose parents talk to them about alcohol and drugs are less likely to use them. 1
Research also shows that teens whose parents talk to them about sex are less likely to have sex at a young age. 2
So, be ready. Know the facts. Know what you want to say.
- Talk to your kids about the pressures of growing up. Make it clear that everyone experiences fears and worries when they are teenagers. Make sure they know that they can come to you.
- You may have to start the conversation. Get to know your children and the times they feel most comfortable. It could be bedtime, in the car or at the dinner table. To avoid appearing angry and placing blame, use "I" statements. For instance, "I feel there is a problem. Do you want to tell me what is going on?"
- Talk to your kids about the risks of getting involved with sex, alcohol, other drugs, smoking and violence. Start early in childhood when your children are curious and begin to ask questions. As they get older, keep the communication going. Talk to them about being an individual and avoiding negative peer pressure.
- Express your own values and attitudes. Be honest. Explain that you want them to make safer choices, because of sexually transmitted diseases, the dangers of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and the responsibility and emotional stress of being a teenage parent. Remember, you can tell your kids about mistakes you made as a teenager. They will understand and respect you even more for your honesty.
- Talk to your kids about the difference between love and sex. Kids need help understanding the meaning of sex. This is just as important as understanding how all the body parts work. Begin early encouraging your children to ask questions. Regardless of the question or response, remain calm and non-critical. Use words that are understandable and make you and your children feel comfortable. It may not be easy, but it is important and necessary that you talk about these things.
- Talk about more than just teen pregnancy and disease. You don't want your kids to think of sex as something bad or dirty. You want them to learn that there is a right time for sex and with it comes responsibilities.
- Be very clear about what you expect your kids to do and not do. Look at your own values and tell them why you believe what you do and what you want for them. This may make it easier to talk about uncomfortable things, and help kids make good choices.
- It's OK to admit that you don't know the answer to a question. Be honest and tell them you don't have the answer. Then go find it together. You can use this time together to bond with your teens, which may make future conversations about uncomfortable things much easier.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Sponsored by the Campaign for America's Kids)
Talk With Kids (A national campaign sponsored by Children Now and the Kaiser Foundation)
Kids Health For Kids (Sponsored by the Nemours Foundation)
How to Talk to Your Kids About Really Important Things, 1994, by Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D., and Theresa Foy DiGernonimo, M.Ed.
What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids, 1994 (revised 1998), by Peter L. Benson, PH.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland.
Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children About Drugs & Choices, 2001, by Dominic Cappello and Xenia G. Becher, MSM, CSW.
Restoring the Teenage Soul: Nurturing Sound Hearts and Minds in a Confused Culture, 1999, by Margaret J. Meeker, M.D.
1 Parents. (n.d.). Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free. Retrieved August 22, 2005, from http://www.alcoholfreechildren.org/gs/audiences/parents.cfm.Sponsored by Governors' Spouses Initiative, which includes federal agencies and public and private organizations; about 37 states are participating)
2 Ten Tips For Parents to Help Their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy. (n.d.). The National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved August 22, 2005, fromhttp://www.teenpregnancy.org.
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