As any parent can attest, communicating with a teenager is often easier said than done. But how can you raise important topics like domestic violence or substance abuse if you don’t talk with your teen? Focusing on communication basics will make it much easier to address these more sensitive issues later on.
The first thing parents need to do is identify the opportunities they have to speak with their teenage children. This won’t happen by accident — you need to create the opportunities yourself. Holding family dinners, using drive time, or even waiting up to chat after your child gets home from a date or social event are great ways to get talking. Some parents even talk during commercial breaks while watching TV!
Of course, you won’t make much progress if you immediately attempt to dive into a lecture on substance abuse or warn of the perils of domestic violence. Instead, help your teens open up by talking about “neutral” issues, like movies or sports. Ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” to help your teen open up. Be respectful, and don’t interrupt. Avoid taking a confrontational tone, as this will only lead to arguing.
Building a baseline of trust and having regular friendly conversations will make it easier to address more serious topics. By taking time to talk, you can improve your relationship and be better equipped to help your child avoid dangerous behaviors.