My Words of Advice on Difficult Conversations with Your Teen

I’ve been doing LOTS of work with teens these past 2 years in my practice.  Prior to that I worked with teens, but this time around is different.  I get to see them for who they are.  I get their trust and their innermost fears, desires, and regrets.  I am blessed to be doing what I love and helping these young people.

My problem is, I am seeing that as a society, we are failing these young people.  We have created a world (with our high tech gadgets, impersonal social society, distant relationships with God if you even believe in God, sex crazed media, and poor values) that is difficult to maneuver for immature minds and fiercely hormonal bodies.  We have very high expectations for them with little back up to support them.

I have parents come to me crying and worrying their girls are going to become pregnant or engage in sex.  The sad thing is that I see kids who are so mixed up in their beliefs because of what they see in the world. How can we ensure what we are teaching them about sex is what they understand when that is all they see around them?  Have you seen some of the television shows geared towards this age group?  Seriously, have you?  If you aren’t watching what your teens are watching, I advise you to check it out.  And yes, these shows are on Channels like Nickelodeon.  Networks devoted toward children and teens are airing shows that, if you have Christian values in your home, you better be monitoring that TV.

Another question I often get from parents is how their child can say they are “bisexual”.  I’m seeing this become a trend with young people.  They are confused about their feelings for their best friends.  Friends that are the same sex.  Yes, they still like the opposite sex, but now they think they like the same sex too.  I find myself pondering on this dilemma often because it’s becoming more and more prevalent.  Most of the young people I see this in are struggling to find love from anyone.  They’ve been hurt by people who should love them the most, and they seek affection anywhere they can find it.  And again, I’m seeing that this world is gearing people towards acceptance of this type of culture.  Where in the past, it was an abomination to be “gay” and no one talked about it, and now that’s all you hear about.  People are on television portraying same sex relationships on almost every show, female artists are singing about how they “kissed and girl” and liked it.  And here we are wondering why our teens are becoming so confused about their sexuality.  So my second piece of advice is: keep monitoring that TV but you also need to monitor their music.  Music is a necessity, I believe, for most teens.  It is how they relate to themselves and the world around them.  However, if they are listening to music that sounds good to them but the lyrics are conflicting with what you teach them, that is an equation for disaster.

Finally, let’s talk about how you as the parent/guardian can support them.  Young people often hide things from their parents for fear of getting into trouble.  We tell them to talk to us about what’s going on in their lives or to talk to us (parents) when they are confused about things they want or are being pressured to do.  However, when they come to us with this information as we have encouraged them to do, we then begin lecturing them and badgering them to tell us everything.  Sometimes consequences are administered to prevent them from continuing to do something deemed inappropriate or to prevent them from engaging in something they are thinking about.  So in their minds, they are being punished for doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to come to us with their problems.  I believe some parents wonder why their children come to me with honesty but won’t tell them anything.  It’s because they know I am not going to judge them and I’m not going to lecture them.  That isn’t to say I haven’t responded in this way before, but if I do, you can believe they are going to shut down.  So my advice to you is to give them guidance, but also you need to LISTEN to them.  Listen to their fears, their conflict, their ideas about the issue.  Many teens know the right thing to do, but they need to talk it out with someone to ensure they know what the right thing is.  At times, they aren’t planning to do what you think they are, some of them are very wise, but they need to talk about it.  You can react negatively to this, and a teen who was not planning to act on their thoughts will as an act of defiance because you didn’t trust them.  I’ve seen this happen.  Listen to them!  Ask them questions about what they think on the issue.  Listen to their thoughts.

My last piece of advice is to talk about issues.  Talk to your teens.  Don’t dodge topics on sex, alcohol/drugs, or other difficult conversations.  If you do, you are losing a chance to ensure they are making sound decisions.  And start early…These issues are not beginning at ages 15 and 16 anymore.  They are beginning in the preteens.  Ages that, in my time, you never talked about it.  They are being pressured before puberty hits sometimes.  Once again, this just shows how much we are failing our young people when their once young ages were only worried about Barbie dolls and transformers, and now they are already hit with information about sex and drugs.

This post is not meant to discourage you but to wake you up to these issues.  Be the parent!  Take control of the direction your children are driving towards.  Don’t say to yourself: “it’s her phone and she has it locked”; “I don’t know the password to her FB page and he has me blocked”; “they stay in their rooms with the door closed”.  No excuses, take control before someone else does and you lose them to the things you want to prevent.

We have to fight for our children so they can live strong adult lives.  We have to advocate for their needs.  Let’s do this together.

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