Having difficult conversations is an important part of parenting. While it may be tempting to avoid talks that you know may be uncomfortable or lead to arguments, being able to have these conversations keeps the lines of communication open in families. When we avoid tough topics, it can lead to feelings of secrecy or confusion around those issues. It is important to remember that if we do not have these conversations, our kids will look to outside influences such as the internet or friends for their education. Parents can properly educate their children by engaging in conversations, even when it is hard.
The teenage years can be especially challenging because our teens are able to engage in media independently. They are beginning to spend more time with their peers than their family, and their priorities begin to shift. When talking to your teen, there a few key points to keep in mind:
- Choose the Right Time: The teenage years often contain high emotions. They may feel defensive about their opinions or assume that their parents are going to belittle them. Choose a time and place where you know your teen will feel calm and comfortable. Maybe that’s going for a walk or a drive in the car. Let them know that you want to hear their opinions and that they will not be judged for what they share.
- Be Honest: You aren’t expected to know everything. If your teen brings up a challenging question and you don’t have the answer right away, it’s OK to let them know that you’d like to do some research before you have a discussion. You can even consider researching the topic together. It’s also OK to admit that a topic is awkward and hard to explain. You can acknowledge that even though the conversation might be difficult, you still want to have it because it is important.
- Empathy as a Teaching Tool: Encourage your teen to think about how they might react in a challenging situation. For example, if you’re wanting to broach the topic of race and racism, ask them how they might feel if they were excluded or treated differently because of the way they look. Let them talk through the hypothetical situation and what emotions might be involved. If you’re talking to them about being anti-racist, they can explore what they might do if they witness racism in school or other aspects of their lives.
- Check Back In: Difficult conversations don’t just happen once. They are a series of conversations as children grow and develop. Once the lines of communication are open and your teen feels safe having those hard conversations make sure that they know they can always come to you with more questions or concerns.
Solstice East Can Help
The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.