Though some conversations are uncomfortable for parents and teens alike, several are essential to have. Leaving some things unsaid can be worse in the long run since your teen will still hear about these topics. Discussing them lets you control the messaging and know they have the facts.
Keep reading to learn which five sensitive topics you should discuss with your teen. You’ll also gain some tips on starting the conversations in areas that can be a little awkward.
1. Sex and Birth Control
The birds and the bees talk is a quintessential conversation many parents and teens dread. Teens are going to learn about and hear about sex. It’s far better to have this conversation with your children to have the correct information. Otherwise, they will learn about it from friends or the internet.
During the talk, it’s essential to talk about respect and consent. During this time, safety is also necessary to bring up. One key topic for both boys and girls is birth control. Ensuring they know how to prevent pregnancy can help them be responsible when the time comes. Don’t neglect to discuss different options such as the pill (prevents pregnancy) and condoms (prevents pregnancy and the spread of STDs).
In today’s era of technology and smartphones and devices, it’s imperative to discuss sexting as well. Go over what’s appropriate content to view and send others. They must understand that what they send can go beyond the intended receiver. And be sure to instill the principle that they don’t share images if someone else sends them something. They also need to know the potential ramifications of pictures stored on their devices.
2. Drug and Alcohol Use
With marijuana being legal for those over 21 in several states, more teens view it as not a big deal. Like alcohol, though, it’s not legal for minors. Talk to your children about the effects of weed and alcohol. They need to understand the legal ramifications of using either. It’s also good to discuss how these substances can affect their growing body and brain development.
Not only can they get in trouble for using both, but there can be consequences for just being around them. Some friends may run if the cops show up, leaving them holding the bag or bottle. Parties where these are present, can also include other types of drugs.
Though you hope your teen never consumes while underage, you need to have an open dialogue. As teens get older and start driving, these conversations become more important. Talk to them about the dangers of riding with someone under the influence. And be sure they know never to go impaired. They should be confident that they can always call you to pick them should they find themselves in that situation.
3. Peer Pressure
In sexting and drug and alcohol use, peer pressure can come into play. Peer pressure existed when you were a child and will always exist. Impress your teen that they can say no to someone who asks them to send them a risky photo. The same goes for saying no to friends who make them feel left out not smoking weed or drinking.
A true friend cares about you and won’t pressure you in areas where you can get in trouble. And they should respect your boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence, after all. Not all teens know this, though, and feel guilty. Tell them repeatedly that they can always say no.
Some parents even tell their kids it’s OK to make them the bad guy. They can say to their friends their parents said, “No, I can’t come to the party.”
Sadly, bullying is something that’s always been present in schools. Today’s technology adds another layer to it with cyberbullying. Kids can hide behind their keyboards and send out hateful messages to each other.
It’s a good idea to talk with your teen about treating others with kindness. It’s also essential that your child understand you’re there to listen and help if they experience bullying. Be sure they know whom they can talk to at their school. Teachers, guidance counselors, principals, and coaches are excellent authority figures.
Discovering your child is being bullied or is a bully can be brutal to hear. Listen carefully and have an open conversation with them. Getting them to be available can help you understand the situation more fully. Having them talk to you is better than them bottling it all up inside.
5. Anxiety and Depression
Teens experiencing bullying can withdraw, leading to anxiety and depression. Open conversations can help you identify if your child requires additional help. They may need to talk to a guidance counselor or see a therapist.
There are a lot of stressors in the teen years. From changing bodies and hormones to more challenging classes and relationships, teens go through many adjustments. Keeping an eye on your child for changes in behavior and having regular check-ins can make a huge impact.
Hopefully, your teen will come to you if their anxiety or depression gets unmanageable. But you can also keep talking to them. Don’t let them ignore these mental health issues. You can help remove the stigma around mental health by letting your teen know it’s as important as physical health. Just as you’d go to the doctor for a cold, it’s essential to work towards healing your mental health.
Bonus Tip: Guidance on Starting the Conversation
You are having regular conversations, and open lines of communication can help when starting conversations about sensitive topics. This way, when you bring up an uncomfortable issue, it won’t seem as out of the blue to your teen.
Let your teen know you’re human, too. Share some examples of your own experiences with them. Tell them when you called Grandma to come to pick you up from a party. Though sharing your experiences can be helpful, try to listen more than lecture.
Answering their questions truthfully also goes a long way in building trust. Even if it’s awkward, honesty helps your teen feel comfortable coming back to you with questions in the future. After a big talk, give your teen some privacy to process the information.
Talking with your teen about these sensitive issues can help keep them safe. They’ll realize they can trust you and come to you if they get into a situation that’s over their head. These initial conversations can also open the door for continued dialogue.