I have a son who is nearly 17, and have been having tough talks with him for a number of years. Our talks involved safe sex, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, and preparing for the real world, in general. Here are some tips that may help your discussions.
Find the right place to talk. Unless you and your teen are the only ones in your home, you will need to find a private place to talk about certain topics. I feel that one on one conversations work best when it comes to the topics of sex, drugs and alcohol. I like to get my teen in the car on a road trip; it doesn’t matter where we’re headed. Having a captive audience and your teen’s undivided attention is all that matters. Just be sure to lock the doors so that he/she doesn’t try to escape and tuck and roll! Another safe place is in your teen’s bedroom, but don’t stay for longer than 20-30 minutes, you need to respect his/her living space.
Approach each topic one at a time. Do not overwhelm your child by hopping from one tough topic to the next, covering them all in one conversation. This is not like speed dating! You should truly take the time to approach each topic gently, and target a few key points on each subject. Do not overwhelm your child; work slowly into deep subjects by talking for a few minutes at a time, leaving the rest of the discussion for another time(s).
The sex talk. I like to start this discussion near the age of 12, whether your child is a male or female, this is something that other children his/her age are already thinking about. My father’s sex talk involved him telling me that if I had sex, I would most certainly end up pregnant, or with an STD, or both! I was convinced that, even with the use of a condom, there was no such thing as genuinely safe sex with another human being. It worked great for me! His talk scared the virginity into me for many years. Discuss masturbation, but do not call it that; simply say that it is alright for him/her to touch himself/herself all they want, in the privacy of their room. Discuss repercussions of teen pregnancy including being saddled with child support or supporting an infant, discuss the constant needs of an infant, explain that raising an infant will take up any free time after school, along with any free money. No more hanging with friends or shopping at the mall! Also, it is detrimental that you discuss STDs with your teen; sit with them and use google or yahoo search engines to look up graphic photos of men and people with STDs. And, finally, discuss the use of condoms. Explain that this is the only form of contraception that protects a person from STD’s AND pregnancy, but that it is still not 100% safe.
Drug and alcohol abuse. I feel like a real life visual is necessary to start this discussion. Take your child by car to drive by the local homeless shelter, be sure to lock your car doors! Ask your teen to pay close attention to the people who are sitting or lying on benches and sidewalks, point out how they are often sipping from a brown bag. Explain that these poor souls are the products of addiction. This should give your child a very quick reality check. You also need to discuss your own knowledge of how drug and alcohol addiction can ruin lives. Use movies stars and rockers whose lives were ruined and cut short by addiction as examples, if needed. Discuss precisely how addictive certain drugs are. My dad told me tales about how friends of his tried heroin or cocaine only once and then became a lifelong addict. It really does only take one sampling to get addicted. Discuss Meth and what they use to make the stuff (draino, floor deglosser, etc.) and then tell your child about the high mortality rate of meth users; many do not ever escape addiction, they just die addicted, usually below the age of 40.
Bullying. This seems to be an increasing problem these days; we have children committing suicide because of another child who is mistreating them to the point to where they feel that their life has no value. So very sad. Discuss bullying with your child and talk about the suicides that have happened in the past few years. Use the internet, yahoo, google or whatever, and pull up the stories. Read them aloud with your child and talk about it. Pull up the news reports that are archived and they can listen for themselves, to the reporter detailing the suicide. Make sure that your expectations are clear. I have told my son, and continue to tell him occasionally; bullying is not acceptable, report any bullying you witness to a teacher, speak out against bullying, if you’re being bulled, ask for help, and above all, be compassionate and kind to every single person around you! Cover all your bases so that your child is not the antagonist, a helpless witness or the victim.
When it comes to any issue with your teen, you need to keep the conversation going. Make a point to discuss each topic bi-annually. Be sure your child understands that no matter what he or she does, that he or she is valuable and that you love him/her. You can be upset at their actions, but not with them, as a person. Use terms such as, “I am angry that you chose to skip curfew” rather than saying, “I am angry at you!” You love your teen and want the best for him or her; you should repeat that over and over and over throughout their youth. Good luck with your tough talks, I hope my advice helps!