Talking to teens can be tough, especially about sensitive subjects. However, there are five conversations you absolutely need to have with your teen right now.
Yes, it can be a little awkward or embarrassing to bring up these topics, but your teenager needs to hear the facts from an informed source (that would be you!). Plus, this is your chance to guide their decisions and remind your teen about your family’s morals and values.
So while it might not be easy, make a plan to have these conversations with your teen as soon as you can. And if you need tips on getting them to open up to you, check out this article.
1. Let’s talk about sex
Whether you want to admit it or not, at some point in their life (probably sooner than you think), your teenager will have sex. And when they are thinking about it or have questions, do you want them getting their information from their friends or from you?
Wander down memory lane for a moment with me . . . do you remember being a teenager? Do you remember how obsessed everyone was with sex? Who was having it or wasn’t having it? How to have more of it or avoid doing it at all. And it seemed like everyone had advice about it that they learned from their older siblings or cousins. And most of that advice was absolutely terrible and completely untrue.
It might be awkward, but you have no idea how much you are helping your teens when you talk to them about sex. Give them the facts to keep them safe, but also remind them about your family’s beliefs on intimacy.
Some parents tend to focus solely on pregnancy, but there are lots of other things to discuss. Some of the other points to touch on are sexually transmitted diseases, consent, pornography and the emotional side of being intimate with someone.
If you need help figuring out what to say or how to say it, check out this article from Planned Parenthood. It walks you through different scenarios and is chock full of helpful resources.
2. Talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol
Substance abuse is another topic that many parents try to avoid talking about with their teenagers. But here is the harsh truth; on average, kids start experimenting with drugs and alcohol at age 14. Yes, that fact shocked me too and reiterated how important it is to have an open conversation with your teen about drug use and alcohol consumption.
Yes, your kids are probably getting some type of drug and alcohol education at school during health class. But we all know how limited that is and your child might have questions they didn’t want to ask in front of the class.
Some parents have a more lenient viewpoint than others, but the important thing is that you have a conversation and openly discuss it. Let your teen know how you feel about drugs and alcohol. Do you have a personal story (either involving you or someone you know) that you can share with them?
Don’t be afraid to ask your teen questions about themselves and their friends. Has your teenager been offered drugs or alcohol? How did they handle it? Do they know someone with a drug or alcohol problem? These are are all starting points to an open and honest conversation with your teen.
Again, if you need help figuring out exactly what to say, here is a great article about what to cover with your teen.
3. Have conversations with your teen about driving
Learning to drive is a major milestone for teenagers and their parents. It is also a wonderful opportunity to discuss responsibilities and behaving like an adult.
Most teenagers are so excited to start driving, but they only see the fun and freedom. They might not realize that driving recklessly can endanger themselves or other people.
It’s important to remind your teen that they are responsible for the safety of everyone in the car. This means making sure that all passengers are wearing a seat belt and staying focused while they are driving. Tell them to not text or play with their phone while they are behind the wheel. This is also a good time to touch on drugs and alcohol again and remind your teen to never drive under the influence.
I love this driving contract because it covers all the basic safety protocols and helps impress upon your teen that they need to be alert, focused and responsible while driving.
4. Talk to your teen about grown up life
Many parents are so focused on getting their kids through high school that they don’t stop to discuss what happens next. Unfortunately, for many teenagers, if they don’t have an adult gently guiding them in the right direction, they will drift aimlessly.
Is your teenager considering college or do they want to start working right after they graduate? Have you taught your teenager all the life skills they need to live on their own? Is your teen following their passions in life or being swept along with what everyone else is doing?
Have you had a serious talk about money? Does your teen know how much the average rent is in your area? Or what about electric, water, trash or a phone bill?
It’s important to give your teenager a realistic idea about adult life. Remember, one of the main goals of being a parent is raising kids who will be independent, so take the time to prepare them for life after high school.
5. Have conversations with your teen about health
Most parents are finely attuned to our children’s physical health when they live with us, but have you talked to them about taking care of themselves when they are adults? Do your teens understand how to cook healthy meals? Do they know to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water? Is your teen committed to regular exercise and annual checkups with their doctor?
Perhaps even more importantly, have you discussed mental health with your teenager? Do you and your teen know the signs of depression? Or how to handle anxiety?
Does your teen understand that there is no shame in asking for help with their mental health? This is an important part of their overall well being and they need to understand that resources are available to them.
How to have these conversations with your teen
- First of all, catch them at the right time. It’s probably not a good idea to have these conversations with your teens when their friends are around. I love talking to my kids in the car or while we are taking a walk because they can’t escape to their room.
- Sometimes you get lucky and your teen will bring up the subject on their own. They might not come right out and ask you about drugs, but maybe they will mention someone they know who is using drugs. This is your opening to ask them questions and start a conversation. Don’t let it slip by because it doesn’t happen often.
- Just remember, you can’t come across like you are being judgy or nosy because that will make them shut down. Ask them gentle, probing questions to get more information and see how your teen feels about the subject.
- The most important thing to remember during all of these conversations with your teenagers is to LISTEN. It shouldn’t be a lecture, but a discussion.
- They are almost adults and want to participate in the conversations instead of being told what to do. When you stop talking and start listening more, you might be surprised by the wealth of information your teen will offer.
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