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Discussing Difficult Topics With Children and Teens

Virtually all teenagers go through some stage in which they no longer want to talk to their parents about the issues they face. It is perfectly natural

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for an adolescent to try to be independent and handle problems on his own. However, there are sometimes issues that need the attention of an adult. But how can parents know something is seriously wrong if their child will not confide in them? While there is no magic potion that can make a teen open up about trouble in his personal life, there are some ways parents can ease children into discussing things that they cannot and should not try to face alone.

Too many times, parents do not address important topics with their children because of a number of myths. It is time to dispel these myths so that parents can offer the guidance and support that their children so desperately need and deserve.

MYTH: If my kids find out that I smoked pot, my kids will think it is okay.

Do not let the fear of being a hypocrite stop you from talking to your kids. Be honest. Teens are realistic and they know that parents are not perfect. If you experimented with something dangerous, tell them. Then explain what made you want to engage in the activity and any negative repercussions you faced as a result. Help them understand that you have rationale for your views.

MYTH: Depression is a normal part of growing up, my son will snap out of it eventually.

While it may be true that everyone develops feelings of sadness or loneliness from time to time, prolonged depression is never normal. If your child has symptoms of depression that persist for more than a couple of weeks, you may want to consult his pediatrician. Not every case of depression requires medical attention, but it is always best to be safe.

MYTH: My parents didn’t talk to me about drugs, alcohol or sex and I turned out fine, so I don’t need to talk to my kids about it either.

Most children and teens are naturally curious about sex, drugs and alcohol. When parents do not speak to their children about serious issues, they will look to other sources for answers. Unfortunately, information gained through the media can be misleading or incomplete and information gathered from peers is typically inaccurate. The best way to ensure that children are adequately prepared to deal with situations that may arise, is to educate them and provide as many answers as possible. This does not mean that every parent should know everything about these topics, but if the child has a question that you are unable to answer, find the answer together through a reputable source.

MYTH: My daughter asked a question about birth control, she must be having sex.

Do not over-react. Remember, simply because the child asks about sex, drugs or alcohol, does not necessarily mean she has experimented or is considering it.

MYTH: My son would never try alcohol, he is an honor roll student. Besides, we live in a good neighborhood, so he is not exposed to drugs.

There is no specific type of person who uses drugs or alcohol. Everyone from the most intelligent student with the greatest potential to the high school drop out is susceptible. Moreover, there are no longer neighborhoods that are free from the threat of drugs or alcohol; from inner city apartments to the suburbs, drugs and alcohol are everywhere.

MYTH: My son knows the rule about drugs and alcohol, so there is no need to talk to him about it.

Never assume that a child will follow rules simply because they are in place. Children may rebel due to peer pressure or simply because they do not believe a rule is justified. Explain, do not lecture; teaching him why certain things are off limits will be more productive than a basic, “Because I said so.” Additionally, it reinforces the idea that he can be open with you.

When talking to your children about tough issues, remember to let your them know that no matter what the question or how serious the circumstances, they can always come to you and you will not jump to conclusions or make rash decisions. Encourage an open forum, in which they can discuss things without fear of punishment or judgment. Make expectations clear, but be willing to listen with an open mind. Children respond better to limits when they understand the reasoning behind rules.

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By Corey Quinn

Entrepreneur and online marketing expert

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