How to Have the Tough Talks with Teens

At some point in every teen’s life, there are going to be some conversations that parents are dreading or don’t know how to approach. It could be from the death of a family member, a change in situations such as moving or financial adjustments or even a decision regarding the teen that they may not want, such as sending them to a troubled teen residential program or a teen wilderness camp to get them help.

If you have to face a difficult conversation with your teen, see below for some tips on how to approach the subject for the best possible discussion.’

Prepare yourself. If you view the conversation as difficult, then there may be ways to destigmatize it for yourself. Ask yourself why it seems so daunting, and what you are expecting from your teen that makes you dread the upcoming talk. Go over to yourself what you need to say, and even write it down to make the points more clear that you want to make. Try not to have any assumptions about how the conversation will go, and go in with an open mind.

Stay calm. It’s easy to become emotional during a difficult conversation, but it’s important to stay confident and calm. If you had the discussion, you have to be firm and in control as you talk about why you are making that decision, and how it will affect both your teen and you or your family.

Listen with your ears and your eyes. After saying what you initially need to say, it’s time to listen. Listen to what your teen has to say, but also use your eyes to read body language. Is your teen visibly upset? Can you tell they are about to get defensive or highly emotional? By listening, you can be aware of how the conversation is going, even your teen is not saying much with their mouths.

Now respond. After your teen has said their peace, now it’s your turn to respond. Stay calm, and acknowledge that you heard their concerns, and you recognize how they are feeling. Then you need to let them know that while you understand what they are saying, your decision is firm and well thought out. Have a list of reasons you have prepared for why you need to have this conversation, and what you hope to get out of it.

Tackle the issues together. After everyone has said what they need to say, it’s time to problem solve. Try to come up with short or long-term solutions to your teen’s concerns, and how you can work together towards a solution that everyone can agree on. There’s going to be some issues that can not be worked out in this conversation and will require further research, but the main points you needed to express should be tackled and ready for the next step.

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