Talking to teens about important issues is something that a lot of parents dread. Yet, most experts believe that even if we do not think are teens are listening to us, in truth they are.
The reasons teens do not talk to their parent usually involve their fear of criticism or the belief that their parents have no personal context in which to understand the issues they face. They then rely on their friends as sources of expertise on all kinds of subjects from drug use to sex. The problems is that the myths such as oral sex is not really sex or you can’t get hooked on prescription drugs because they are from licensed doctors are rampant in the teen age grape vine.
Our society has made subjects such as teen sexuality seem taboo. We bombard our teens with sex constantly, but we rarely have effective and frank conversations about sex. With teens. Parents have come to rely on the schools to teach our teens about sex and drug us. Yet, in reality the schools cannot impart our family’s values to teens, nor do they deal with the results when teens don’t get the right messages.
I have a few tips for parents in general to talk to their teens about important issues ;such as sex and drug usage.
First start early before your child reaches middle school and has to make hard decisions about drugs and sex. Small children do not need detailed information about birth control and STD’s but they do need to understand the correct names of their reproductive body parts and a very basic understanding of where babies come from. You can simply explain these sometimes persons create, babies when they are not ready and this causes lots of problems. You can also teach young children that not a medicine is good and that there is some that when they are older and they do not take for good reasons will make them sick. You can also impart simple moral messages to young children such as drinking is something that can hurt families and people should not have babies till they can provide them good homes. There is little chance smaller children will be interested in the details but they will take in the overall message. It is best to impart your values about issues that kids will face as teenagers at an age when most kids think you still know something of value.
When talking to preteens and teens you should not wait for them to inmate the conversation. Approach the conversation by saying you are not there to lecture them on a given topic. Rather, tell them you are not going to penalize them for being honest and you are there to find out what your teen and their friends already understand drug use and sex. Ask you teen to be frank with you about any experimentation or their friends have done. Do not punish them for being honest. There is a good chance, they will not tell you the whole truth, but they will give you some gage of what is going on in their world in regard to issues such as drugs, drinking, and sex.
Don’t lecture but ask your teen to remember the values that you have taught them. Restate those values in a non judgmental way. Acknowledge that you know your teen is growing up and is a separate person who has to form his or her own opinion about drugs and sex. Make it clear that you as a parent now are limited in what you can do if they make poor decisions; in regard to drugs, drinking, or sex. You cannot get them out of situations where they get in trouble with the law or prevent them from getting STD’s. Teens need to understand they’re now responsible for the decisions they make. Tell them you are there to help them make good decisions not dictate what they do.
Now is the time for you to be honest. Tell your teen about the problems drugs and drinking caused you and your friends in High School. You can be honest and say that drug usage cause you little problem, but the world has changed and the legal consequences now are greater than when you were young. You can talk about the classmates you had who were not so lucky and have developed substance abuse problems. Don’t be dramatic but honest and matter of fact. Decide how much you are going to reveal. You may or may not want to share with your daughter that you had an abortion you regretted. It is good if you are comfortable enough too , because, if your teen’s can emotionally connect to you as a person who was once facing the issues they face you gain credibility.
You do not need to have these discussions all at once. Leave the door open for your teen to come with you with their concerns. In the mean time if you do not feel you know enough about contraceptives, new designer drugs, or, where teens now are drinking then arm yourself with information. All that you need to know is on the Internet and there are organizations that will help direct you as a parent to what you need to know. Again, you goal is not a well researched, lecture to give to your teen, put to give them accurate answers. If your teen asks you questions to things that you do not understand , be honest and tell them you will find out. If your teen is open to it ; go online so you can find out the answers together. You have to walk a fine line of being an authority figure and being someone your teen views as a friend effectively to talk to your teen.
If your teen has made poor decisions in the past or comes to you in the future be there for them in a way that does not drive them away. If you son has had unprotected sex be willing to take them to the health clinic to be checked for STD’s. If your daughter shows she is being sexually active be willing to help her obtain birth control and learn how to protect herself for diseases. We cannot undo the bad decisions are teens have made we can simply practice damage control. If you do not approve of your teen being sexually active you can voice your disapproval, but it is more important, you help your teen stay safe and healthy then pretend to be abstinent .We cannot prevent our kids from making decisions that we do not approve of we can only help them learn to deal with them as they become responsible adults.