No one says raising a teen is an easy job. In fact, most parents will attest to just the opposite. One of the most difficult aspects of raising teens is those all-important discussions about sex, drugs, drinking, and friendships. Most teens really resist conversations about these topics, yet at the same time they desire guidance. How, then, can a parent enter into these discussions without alienating their child.
I found out early that the best way to get a teen’s attention is to treat them as the adult they nearly are. This means not talking down to them, or acting like an expert. They know you are knowledgeable, even if they don’t want to admit it.
I remember one conversation I had with my youngest. He had made friends with a boy from school who was not a very good influence. He had been in juvenile a couple of times, had experimented with marijuana, and hung out until the wee hours of the morning. He missed a lot of school as a result. I had tried to discourage the friendship without just putting my foot down and saying no to my son. One night when his friend came to visit, he asked if he could pick my son up the next day and take him to Wal-Mart during a break from his college classes. I said no. They sneaked out together anyway and got picked up or shoplifting. This is something my son had never done before, nor since.
After I picked my son up from jail, I wanted to tell him, “I told you so.” But, I refrained. Sometime later, he told me he realized after that why I didn’t want him to be friends with the boy. He also said that if I had said, “I told you so,” he would have stayed friends to spite me. So, sometimes the best conversation is to hold your tongue.
Some tips I have learned over the years in talking to the eight children I raised include the following.
- Let them lead the conversation – talk about what they want to talk about
- Listen and ask questions – they will then listen to you more, plus you will know what is really going on with them
- Be engaged in a fun activity – don’t just sit and talk (unless they ask to do that). It is easier to talk when the focus is off the intensity.