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I’d Rather Not Talk About It

How to have tough conversations with tweens and teens

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen you’ve likely experienced the dread that comes with talking to your kid about a touchy or difficult topic. You’d rather avoid it, and, without a doubt, they would too. However, there are ways to approach subjects you’d rather not touch with a 10-foot pole that will help the outcome be a positive one. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Check in With Yourself
Is there ample time to get into this kind of discussion with your child? How are you feeling? (If the answer is steaming mad, distracted or tired then it may not be the best time to engage.)

Are you ready to disarm and not take the situation personally? She may cry; he may yell; there may be slamming of doors. Your job is to keep breathing, remain calm and do your best to keep the lines of communication open.

Avoid Lecturing
Asking questions, rather than talking at your child, goes a long way to making them more receptive. Say things like, “Did you realize that you were making a mistake or not thinking things through?”, or “What could you decide to do differently next time?”

Put Yourself In His or Her Shoes
Showing that you have thought about the issue from your kid’s point of view diffuses anger and defensiveness. Let her give you more details or correct you if she needs to. Then reflect back what she’s saying to confirm you’ve heard her. Remember what it was like to be misunderstood teen.

Respect His/Her Experience
You may not agree with the decision he made but let him explain his reasons for making it. Listening to and honoring his point of view makes the conversation a two-way street, rather than a “talking to”. Use “I” statements instead of finger-pointing and blaming. “I was so upset that you didn’t come home and didn’t call” (rather than “You never call when you’re supposed to!”) Even though it’s difficult, try to come from a place of empathy and love. Humor helps too.

Setting Limits or Consequences
The most difficult thing to do is to let your child know that there are consequences for his actions. If trust has been broken, it needs to be repaired. Talk through possible solutions that will work and can be agreed upon by everyone.

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