Today, I want to talk to you about how to have difficult conversations with your kids and adolescents about some of those big, heavy topics in life that we really do need to approach. Topics such as substance use, sexual health, what to do if your friend is having a mental health crisis, or someone is bullying you on the internet. Unfortunately, all of those things par for the course of being a parent these days.

Strategy #1

Your dialogue with your kid needs to be age appropriate. If you are talking to your 7-year-old about a school lockdown, then you are going to use far more limited information than when I talk to my 17-year-old about a school lockdown. Make sure the conversation is age appropriate so that you don’t overwhelm them with information that they do not yet have the developmental capacity to handle and process.

Strategy #2

I want you to pay attention to HOW you approach the conversation. So very often, we are focused on WHAT we want to talk about. It’s equally as important to pay attention to how you come to the conversation.

Strategy #3

Next, I want you to pay really good attention to being a good listener. Allow for some silence. Silence is often when your kid is working up the gumption to say something. However, that’s not going to happen if you dominate the conversation.

Strategy #4

Then, you get to educate your child with information about that topic and you get to share with them your values and opinions on the subject. While you’re doing that, also pay attention to their feelings. It’s our job as parents to help our kids grow their own emotional awareness. Often times we need to help them name their feelings. “Boy, it sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed. Is that right?” They will let you know whether or not that’s the right word. Feelings need to be a part of this conversation as well.

Strategy #5

As far as whatever it is you want to teach your kid about that subject, it’s actually going to work better if you’re brief and to the point. I’m a mom, I know brief and to the point can be really hard sometimes. Often times, if we’re giving a sermon or what we’re saying to our kids is just looping over and over again, it’s because we’re upset, and we want to make sure that we got through to them. Instead of preaching at them, what if you just say, “This is really important. I need to make sure that I got through to you. Can you play it back to me in your own words what we just talked about?” Asking for that play back will hopefully help give you some confirmation that they did hear you and you can leave it at that.

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