Monday, May 11, 2009

How To Talk To Teens

Today is "Guest Blogger Day." I'm very excited to have Debra Beck gracing our blog today. Debra is the author of "My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A girl’s guide to loving herself from the inside out." Learn more about Debra and her work with teens at

Do you want to communicate better with your teen? Hopefully, you all said, "Absolutely!" The biggest problem I see with teens and parents is that a parent doesn’t set up the platform for easy communication until it is to late. If you start the process when your teen is 14 years old, you may hit a wall.

I encourage you, as parents, to start the communication process at an early age. Start communicating with your kids when they are young, asking them what they think about a lot of different situations in the world. If we wait for our kids to come to us, it may never happen.

It’s up to us to teach our kids how to communicate. Start teaching them the ease in talking to you about all subjects, that nothing is off limits. Every opportunity you get to open a conversation with your teen about anything, do it. The topic isn’t really important, so, talk about the issues on the cover of magazines, relationships, body image, hairstyles, sex, drugs or clothes. Talk about things happening on the streets, the homeless, fast food, pollution, the attitudes of people, whatever you see, start a conversation about it, no matter how petty the topic appears, it keeps your kids talking to you and this is the key.

Try to let them have their own opinion, keeping your opinions out of it. Let them have an opinion with out squashing it with yours. Parents don’t realize that most every time they speak their opinion, it feels like a judgment to their teen. When we only express our options and beliefs to our kids it’s not communicating.

In the dictionary, communicate means to exchange information. It doesn’t mean that the conversation is one-sided, someone giving their opinion. When we are giving our opinions instead of communicating with our teens, it shuts them down.

One of the most important things is for our teens to be able to come to us with critical issues if they need to. If we haven’t set up an open relationship that our teens feel comfortable in and in which they have a voice, they will not come to us.

During this time of raising our kids, teaching and encouraging them to communicate, we are also teaching them how to make good decisions. If we are telling them what to do, what to believe and how to think, how are they ever going to develop into confident adults? By asking their opinions and allowing them to have their own opinion, we are helping them build the tools they need to make good decisions and the best part is that they will want to come to us with problems because they will know that we will give the space they need to figure things out on their own.

Teens are smart. If you allow them the room to explore the situation and you keep asking the right questions, they will make a good decision. Telling them what to do never works. It shuts them down and they don’t listen anyway.

There is a time when teens normally start pulling away from parents, to develop their own individuality and to explore who they are. If we don’t have a solid base in place when this happens, they will be looking outside of the family unit for guidance. We won’t be the ones influencing our teens; their friends and the media will be guiding them. Isn’t that a scary thought?

So, start early communicating with your kids, again, talk to them about everything, and get them in the habit of talking to you with ease. Keep our opinions out of the conversation, and just ask a lot of questions about how they feel about the things, and how they see it. Give them the space they need to explore without your judgments getting in their way. Remember, this is their life journey, and we are here to guide them along their path and to help them become independent, confident adults.

Debra Beck is the author of "My Feet Aren’t Ugly, A girl’s guide to loving herself from the inside out."

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Andrea said...

This is good advice! ...I find that when talking to teens (though I am not their parent) that I sometimes have to work really hard at keeping my own mouth shut when they are stating their opinions and feelings about a topic!

I may think it's rather silly, but ANY hint at criticism, or a raised eyebrow, and especially any attempt at a "solution for them" will turn them off like a switch!

Unknown said...

Thank you Lynn for posting my blog. I hope it helps the parents and teens out there.
Thanks Debra

Lynn said...

You're very welcome, Debra. Let me know how much response you get. And keep up all the positive work you are doing for parents and teenagers!