Conversations that Matter with Teenagers

October 21st, 2009
  1. Initiate important conversations early with your child, beginning by listening carefully to what is important to them…bullies in the lunchroom, a commercial on television, a scary story that they heard.
  2. Speak directly using simple language to describe your knowledge, feelings and activities with your child or teen.
  3. Parental self-disclosure can increase communication with young people but it is important to be aware of your relationship role and their developmental age. For example, unhealthy parental risk-taking often slips out in conversation but has negative consequences.
  4. Adults can share what we have learned about risk-taking. A nonjudgmental and non-bragging manner is critical. It is often most important to share feelings and mistakes.
  5. Be aware of how you speak and act with your child even when you are not having key conversations with them. Your feelings, words and behaviors are imitated closely.
  6. Educate yourself about adolescent culture and behavior. This will help you to be less judgmental in conversations with them.
  7. Role-playing your teen’s tough situations with them increases closeness and improves communication.
  8. Recognize that everyone, even teenagers, has a private life which includes fantasies, secret thoughts and hidden actions. Mentioning to your child that you know of and respect this increases their respect for you.
  9. Be willing to share some of your failures and what you have learned from them. This role models acceptance of mistakes and helps them understand you better.
  10. Admitting discomfort and embarrassment and how you cope with it when discussing difficult topics also increases bonds.