Talking with your teenager is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. But, the thought of talking to their teen about sex, drugs, etc. sends some parents into hiding, leaving their teen to figure out these life situations on their own, which means they will more than likely look for answers elsewhere. But, I'm here to tell you that you can talk to your teen about these issues, plus many more, and survive.

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Premarital sex
  • Abstinence
  • Safe sex
  • Pregnancy
  • STD's
  • Cheating
  • Bullying
  • Racism/discrimination
  • Dating violence


- Start talking to your child when they are young.

I started talking to my girls when they were around 3 or 4. I first started talking
about cigarettes, because they are everywhere - TV, movies, out in public (age
appropriate talk of course). As they got older, I started talking about alcohol and
then drugs. The older they got, the more I talked. (Of course, if you didn't start
talking to your teen when he/she was young, it is still never too late to start.)

- *"It's better...too much, too soon than too little, too late."

- If you start talking to your child about these issues when they are young, when they become
teenagers and have questions, it will be second nature for them to come to you.

- Start talking (and demonstrating) to your child about your values, so they grow up knowing

what you believe and what you expect.

- Ask questions.
I know "who, what, when, where, why, and for how long" before my girls walk out the
door. (Hollie turned 20 in January, and she told me I was only allowed to ask her ten
questions a day, and that is very hard for me to do. I even text her questions if she is
not home.)

- Don't have one big talk, but have lots of small talks...while driving in the car, eating dinner,
when you're out shopping. If you look for opportunities to talk to your teen, you'll find
them. Just be there. Your teen wants your guidance (even though they may not come
right out and ask for it). I even have little talks with my daughter's friends, because, it's
sad to say, but their parents don't talk to them and they have questions.

- One of the most important things to remember is that no matter what you teen tells you or
how bad the situation is, you cannot yell, cuss or freak out or your teen won't come
to you again. Hollie would usually come to me when I was watching a Lifetime Movie,
and she would say, "momma, I did something I wasn't suppose to do", and I'd be
thinking "Oh God". I never knew what she was going to tell me. Or she would write
me a letter after I went to bed) and leave it on my counter for me to see
when I got up. When I would see that piece of paper on my counter, i would first
say a little prayer. Now, April (who is 14) has started leaving me notes on my
bathroom counter. (But she is usually apologizing for being sassy.) Hollie talks to
her all the time about these teen issues, which has been very helpful.

- It is usually best to wait until the next day to talk to your teen about the situation,
especially if it's bad. This gives you time to calm down and think about what needs
to be done. Just calmly tell your teen, "we'll talk about this tomorrow", and always
tell your teen that you love him/her no matter how upset you are.

- As I've said in an earlier post, when talking to your teen, that old saying "do as I say
and not as I do" won't work. Believe it or not, you are your teen's biggest role

- But, if you are talking to your teen, and he/she asks if you ever smoked pot, etc. and
you did, don't lie and say you didn't. Your teen needs you to be honest with them, and
your smoking pot is not going to make your teen want to go out and do it. Explain the
negative effects it had on you, and explain why your teen shouldn't smoke, etc. Just
don't lie.

- According to About.com, "because I said so" actually works when you are being pulled
into a power struggle in a discipline situation. You are the parent, and you have the
final word. But it is best if you explain your reasoning whenever possible.

- And please, be careful how you talk to your teen. Don't try to hurt or humiliate your teen.
Hollie's dad thought calling her "fat" would make her want to lose weight or calling her
"stupid" would make her want to study more. Talking to your teen like this will destroy
him/her. Hollie has had so many problems because of this abuse. (See my post on
Emotional Abuse.) And as my mother always told me, "if you can't say anything nice,
don't say anything at all". Just walk away.

- During these conversations with your teen, be prepared for your teen to laugh at you or
think you're lame. That's okay. My girls laugh at me all the time (not in a
disrespectful way), but the language has changed so much over the years. Take the
word "gay". When I was growing up, "gay" meant happy. Parents even called their
daughters "Gay". Then "gay" meant homosexual, and now "gay" means "stupid". So
if you teen calls something "gay", they are saying it is "stupid".

- *Look for clues that your teen needs to talk. He/she will give hints, without coming right
out and saying, "let's talk".

  • "You're too young to understand."
  • "If you say that again, I'll...."
  • "I don't care what your friends are doing."
  • "Don't come to me if you mess up."
Of course, a big part of talking to your teen is knowing how to listen.


- Stop what you are doing and give your full attention.
- Look at your teen while talking.

- Don't judge, just listen.
- Sometimes all your teen needs is for you to listen.

Always make sure that your teen knows that you will love him/her no matter what they do and that they can come to you at any time.

And again, please remember I am no expert. These are just things I did as my girls were growing up, and while I'm sure they don't tell me everything, they know they can talk to me about anything. But I must admit, sometimes they tell me things I really did not want to know.

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Tags: Teens, parenting


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Comment by Emily Roberts, MA, LPC on July 16, 2010 at 1:01am
I love your article! I think that the tips for communication are key and parents need to keep this in the for front of their mind when talking with teens. As a therapist who works primairly with teens and their parents, I would add one of the most important topics to discuss is technology, family values regarding what your child does online and how they talk to others, cyberbullying, sexting, and cell phone use. Big culprets in most of the kiddos I talk to. Hope this helps!
Emily Roberts





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