Friday, February 3, 2017

8 Tips to Master an Awkward Conversation with Your Teen

So, you’re a parent, and if this is your first kid, you probably feel like the glory days are over with. Now for all you know there’s this human being, which you think was once your son or daughter that wouldn’t leave your side, living in some area of your house, eating your food, and losing a battle with a little gremlin called puberty.

And now they have questions. Adult questions, if you would believe it. No more which Power Ranger is better than the other, or if Elmo is the appropriate birthday gift compared to the Cookie Monster. Nope, now they’re thinking about stuff maybe even you think about. Sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, it all crosses the mind of most every teenager in this world. Whether they fall into the temptation is up to them, but the responsibility is very much yours as a parent to make sure they do the right thing.


So, here’s where the hard parts in. The talk. One of the most dreaded parent-child meetings in creation. But, the argument can be made that a child simply isn’t best equipped to battle certain temptations without a proper foundation. It’s time for you to take a stand, and build that foundation for them. Here are eight surefire ways to make it happen.


1. Be prepared.


Don’t walk into the room with your child blindly. Just like you wouldn’t want to walk into a job interview without anticipating the questions that are going to be asked, you don’t want to walk into a room with your kid and not have any clever ideas about the reasons to avoid pornography, sex, etc..


2. Treat them like a peer.


You know, the way you talk with your friends. More specifically, the way you talked to your friends in high school or college. Don’t overdo it, though. Please, do not try to use the “hip” generation’s lingo. Stay within your normal vocabulary, but keep in mind that your kid isn’t six anymore. They’re maturing into adults. And, while it doesn’t seem like they’ll ever grow up from where they are right now, they will. The best way for that is to talk to them as if they were an adult, starting now.


3. Try to relate.


Try to remember at least one story about your childhood that you can relate very specifically to what your child is going through at that particular time. Don’t speak in parables. If you start trying to relate your kid’s racing hormone levels to a farmer in a field, your teen will immediately crop you and what you have to say out of their mind.


4. Look them in the eyes, and make them look back.


You’ve heard a million times in your life, I’m sure, that looking someone in the eyes while you speak to them is a sign of respect. What you want to do here is show that you respect your child, and what you have to say to them is of the utmost importance. However, in this case, make sure you don’t let their eyes wonder off to a wall too often. You want their attention on you. As long as their eyes are focused on your pupils, there is a great chance they’re clued in on your every word. Once their eyes wonder off in the distance, they may lose their focus, and their hormones may take them in the direction you’re trying to talk them out of at that very moment. Besides, many people experience an easier time speaking on tough subjects when mutual respect is given. So, while you’re trying to muster the courage inside to speak to your kid about this sensitive issue, demand their respect, and I bet you’ll find things coming a little easier.


5. Don’t be around the bush.


Teens generally don’t like it when they notice an issue being danced around. Don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings momentarily. When you know what you want to say, which you should have down pat after you’ve prepared, make sure you say it. Cut to the chase, in other words. Don’t take a shot at having them on the edge of their seat, because trust me, the one thing on their mind while you’re spending the whole night tip-toeing around what you’re really trying to say is when the conversation is going to end.


6. Don’t be the best friend, but don’t be the preacher.


Sure, tell them you’ll be there for them whenever they have problems. But don’t tell them that they absolutely can’t ever get into any trouble, otherwise you’ll disown them. Do not even hint at that. They have nothing to be made feel guilty about. Every teen goes through puberty, and every teen is experiencing the same thoughts they are. They’re going to make mistakes. That’s not to say you tell them that no matter what they do, you’re still going to give them their allowance. That’s called being an enabler. On the contrary, let them know there will be a consequence, but that it won’t last forever.


7. Give them a reason.
Just like we evaluate risk-reward situations, in the long run your teen is going to evaluate whether they fall to a particular temptation based on a type of risk-reward system. Their choice to have sex may be altered if they know they may lose something near and dear in their life. And no, this doesn’t mean that you threaten them with taking away their cell phone for a year. Take away something they don’t have. Give them something to work for by promising them some sort of gift or reward in the future, as long as they remain honest with you. You may be thinking “Oh, so what you’re saying is to give my kid a cookie when they don’t have sex.” No. Your kid may mess up along the way, and that sadly is almost expected of them. Once they know how worried they would be if you found out about their slip-up, they may not be so inclined to slip-up in the first place. Be creative with the “reward”.


8. Ask questions.


As an extension of showing your respect for your child, be interested in what they’re thinking. Demand their interaction in the conversation. Do not relegate them to being an audience. Make sure they’re talking too. Not just a simple “Yes ma’am” or “Yes sir”, but full sentences, with a paragraph thrown in here and there. This will be very uncomfortable for most teens, but that can be a good thing. Once their uncomfortable, you have their attention, and they’re ready to fix that uncomfortable feeling. That’s what you’re there for.


These eight guidelines are strictly that, guidelines. They can be followed by the book, or you can follow a number of them but not the other. However, you can feel a great deal more confident on talking to your teen or tween about sex, drugs, pornography, or what have you, as long as you remember this one bit of advice: mutual respect, and mutual participation in the conversation. After all, a conversation is only a lecture if only one of you is talking.


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