Friday, May 05, 2023
As a parent, you want to make sure that your teen feels comfortable talking to you about sensitive subjects. However, discussing sensitive topics can be challenging, and you may not know where to start. In this blog post, I'll provide you with some tips on how to talk to your teen about sensitive subjects.
As a teen therapist, I can tell you that talking with a teen who does not want to talk is one of the most difficult tasks. In fact, I often say to parents that it's not worth their money to have their reluctant teen come to see me every week if they are not willing to talk about what is going on. As a therapist, I need the teen to want to engage in the process in order for the process of therapy to work. As the parent, you need to find a way for your teen to want to engage with you. Especially when talking about things that are difficult.
The 5 Steps:
1. Create a Safe Space
As a therapist, the safe space is usually the office. A place where the client knows that nobody else is listening. They know that I am not there to judge, punish, or tell on them; I am there to help. You are their parent, not their therapist, so how do you create such a space when their experience of you is probably already one where they know they will be looked at as having been "bad" and they have been punished in the past for their behavior?
One of the most important things you can do when talking to your teen about sensitive subjects is to create a safe emotional space. This means that your teen should feel comfortable talking to you without fear of judgment or punishment. To create a safe space and help your teen open up, let your teen know that they can talk to you about anything and that you will listen without interruption or judgment. They need to feel like they can share difficult things with you and they will not have to "suffer" any consequence. They need to know that you value your connection with them over making sure that they don't do anything "bad" or "wrong."
2. Be Honest and Open
When talking to your teen about sensitive subjects, it's important to be honest and open. Your teen will be more likely to trust you if you are honest with them. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it, and offer to find out more information. Maybe even Google it together and talk about what you find. Additionally, be open to your teen's perspective and point of view. They may have a different opinion than you, and that's okay.
Be willing to be seen as the "old" person who doesn't "get it." Remember when you were a teen and thought your parents knew nothing about what was happening in your life? That is how your child feels.
Listening is crucial when it comes to talking to your teen about sensitive subjects. Your teen may have a lot on their mind, and they may need someone to listen to them. When your teen is talking to you, be present and attentive. Avoid interrupting or making assumptions about what they're saying. This is a time to be present and focused on them. Put away the phone, don't have the TV or any other distractions happening. They need to know you are listening by feeling that you are present with them.
4. Use Age-Appropriate Language
When talking to your teen about sensitive subjects, it's essential to use age-appropriate language. Using overly technical language, jargon, or talking down to your teen like they are a much younger child can be frustrating and make them feel like you don't understand them. On the other hand, using too much slang or inappropriate language can make your teen uncomfortable. Find a balance that works for you and your teen. Everyone is different. Think about how your child talks to their friends or other adults. Don't do or say anything that you wouldn't normally when you are talking to your friends. Be authentic.
5. Be Patient
Finally, when talking to your teen about sensitive subjects, it's important to be patient. Your teen may not be ready to talk about certain topics, or they may need time to process what you've said. Be patient and allow your teen to set the pace of the conversation. Remember that this is an ongoing conversation, and you don't need to cover everything at once.
If you talk too much, it will turn into "wha wha wha" and they will stop listening. Same is true if you go too hard and too fast about something they already feel any shame around. One or two sentences at a time is a good way to start. If they answer and engage with you then continue. If it seems like they are done talking, let them know that it looks like they are done for now and you will continue the conversation later.
In conclusion, talking to your teen about sensitive subjects can be challenging, but it's essential for their well-being and your relationship with them. By creating a safe space, being honest and open, listening, using age-appropriate language, and being patient, you can have meaningful conversations with your teen about sensitive subjects.
Presence in Parenting®
I want this parenting blog to be a valuable resource for parents seeking information and support. It should provide a platform for parents to connect with others and share their experiences, while also providing access to expert advice and resources on a wide range of parenting topics. If you have any ideas for future topics that you have questions about, let me know!
In no way are any of these articles to be considered clinical advice or part of therapy. If you are looking for those services, please contact me for a referral.
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