How to Talk to your Teen

All Articles in the Category ‘How to Talk to your Teen’

Helping Your Teen Handle a Breakup

stepkidtalkThe breakup of a romantic relationship is almost always hard. Even as adults, we might mourn, weep, question our worth, and wonder if we’ll ever be happy again. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale (for adults), which seeks to score big life events in relation to how they affect your overall stress level, rates divorce as second only to the death of a spouse. While teen breakups are not nearly as long or complicated as a divorce, they still can bring sorrow, guilt, emptiness, low self-esteem, and anger.

In fact, some people who have been through divorces might get angry at me even comparing a teen breakup to a divorce. As adults who have watched friends and family divorce, or divorced ourselves, we know the two are very different. But a teen has never been married or partnered, has never been divorced, and may well have never been in a relationship lasting longer than three months. To you, it’s a blip on the radar. To them, it’s the end of the world.

How do you help your teen get over a breakup? Read full post »

Middle School Teens and Sexting: The Survey Says…

Unrecognizable young girl using a touch phone modern gadget.In a recent issue of Pediatrics, researchers studied a group of seventh-graders to see how prevalent sexting was in that age group (ages 12-14), as well as whether sexting is associated with sexual activity.

The answer for what percentage were sexting is 22%, which is good news or bad news depending on how pessimistic you are. They did find that those young teens who were sexting were more likely to be sexually active. (This makes sense to me; teens who are exploring their sexuality would be more likely to use different methods of sexual expression.)

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Teaching Teens to be Responsible

teen travelIn my last post, I discussed the case of Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old who drove drunk and killed four people. Many were astonished when his prosecutor successfully argued that because Ethan had not been taught about consequences or responsibility by his parents, that he did not deserve jail time.

Ethan’s parents seemed to refrain from punishment no matter how egregious his offenses. They are far below the bell curve in parental discipline; most of you would never dream of letting a young teen drink themselves to unconsciousness without repercussions. But Ethan’s history does raise the question: How do parents raise responsible teens, ready to accept the consequences of their actions, work hard for their goals, and face the realities of life?

Of course, each teen is born with their own temperament, and there is no magic equation. But I’ve gathered up some suggestions, including past posts, on strategies that may help instill a sense of responsibility in your teen. Read full post »

Those Crazy Kids With Their Music These Days

teenmusicMusic… gives wings to the mind, a soul to the universe, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, a life to everything.” -Plato

I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it.” –The Rolling Stones

Music is an emotional modulator, an escape, and a source of relaxation for all of us, but especially adolescents. Teens find poetry in their favorite song’s lyrics, drown frustration in a hard-driving rhythm, and let calming songs soothe them at night. Teens seeking out peers who think like them may find music an easy common language, and their dress and worldview may partially stem from their favorite musicians. Read full post »

Yelling at your teen can backfire

parents yellingAll teens will test limits. It’s a natural part of being a teenager and important for development, but how we as parents, respond, can have a significant impact on behavior. It is not surprising that yelling often accomplishes nothing, but a new study has found evidence to support the idea that yelling can have long-term harmful consequences. Read full post »

Talking To Your Teen About Your Own Drug and Alcohol History

Serious father talking to teenage son at homeMost parents have talked to their teen about the importance of refraining from alcohol and drug use. However, many parents will also be faced with the question from their teen, “Well, did you ever drink/ use drugs?”

Parents who did not abstain may be taken aback, and unsure what to say. If you’re someone who did experiment with alcohol and drugs in their own past, you might be wondering how to relate that history, if at all. Should you lie and say you never experimented? Should you refuse to answer? Should you change the subject? Read full post »

Just a Click Away: Talking To Your Teen About Internet Pornography, Part 2


one young teenager boy or girl silhouette computer computing lapThis was originally scheduled to post on April 8th.. and I’m not sure why it didn’t! Anyway, this is the second part of my post on how parents can talk to their teens about internet pornography. Here are 5 more topics you may want to address during these discussions. See the first part here.

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Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 8: The Media’s Response to the Steubenville Convictions

Taking notesI thought Part 7 was my last post in the series, but the media response to the sentencing of the two rapists in the Steubenville case has been so outrageous that I’m going to tack on a postscript here.

One of the first news reports to come out after the conviction was from CNN, and it spent much more time sympathizing with the rapists than the victim- in fact, the victim was not mentioned. You can watch the video here. A concerned Poppy Harlow states, “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened, as these two young men, that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their life fell apart…” She then goes on to describe said emotion in the courtroom, and the offenders’ sadness. Later on, another reporter asked a legal correspondent, “What’s the lasting effect of two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?”
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Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Students Sitting on StepsThis is my last post on the topic of teens and sexual assault. I’m going to start with another story from my adolescence that will always stay with me. I was 15, and had lied, finagled, and faked my way into an all-night party at my friend Hannah’s* house. The ages at this party ranged from 13-20 (first problem), Hannah’s mother was willing to tell parents she’d be there all night, but went to sleep early and never woke up (second problem), the house had a few acres of property, including cabins (third problem), and there was beer everywhere (fourth problem.)

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Teens and Sexual Assault, Part 6: Sexual Assault Within A Relationship

gayteencoupleWhen I was about 15, a friend was confiding in me about our friend Sasha’s* fight with her boyfriend James*. Sasha had been dating James for a while, and their relationship included sexual activity. She told me that Sasha had cheated on James, and he had found out and been furious.

“What did he do?” I asked.

“He was really mad. He yelled at her and threw things and made her have sex with him,” she said.

“Like, he made her have sex, when she was saying no?” I said, incredulous.

“Well… I don’t know. I don’t think so. He said she was crying but didn’t fight him or anything.”

Reading this as an adult makes me cringe. But as teens, we were a little confused as to whether James could really rape Sasha, given that they were going out and had had sex before. When we saw Sasha next, she and James were together and they seemed happy. We concluded that she couldn’t have been sexually assaulted.

When we think of teens being sexually assaulted, we often think of stranger/ acquaintance rape, but teens can and are sexually assaulted by their romantic partners. This can occur even if they have consented to sex in the past, and might again in the future. Consenting to one episode of sexual contact does not mean that there is blanket consent for sexual consent at all times.

This seems like an easy concept for adults to understand, but it’s important to remember that the very idea of date and marital rape wasn’t really addressed by our society until the 1970s. One of my earliest memories of talk radio is listening to (and being confused by) a debate in the early 80s that boiled down to, “Is it really possible to rape your own wife?”

Teens- especially younger teens- can be confused by the concept of sexual assault within the confines of a romantic relationship that has already involved sexual contact. It’s important that teens realize that it’s wrong to make, or coerce, someone into having sex, even if they’ve consented to sex before. It’s also important that teens know they can say no to someone- with every expectation of an immediate halt to sexual activity- even if they’ve said yes before, no matter what the circumstances. In Sasha’s case, I found out later she felt she’d “deserved it” for having sexual contact with someone else while dating James.

While it’s very important that your teen realize that it’s important to gain consent for sexual contact, they also need to know that consent is important for every sexual contact. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a teen has to seriously sit down and formally ask for consent every time (although they can if they want to), but they do need to realize that consent is not a one-time process when one is dating someone, or has had sexual contact with them before. This may not be one of those concepts where you can give a step-by-step guide on how to deal with it, but it’s still important that they’re aware the concept exists.

Once you’ve discussed how important this is with your teen, ask them how they’d go about making sure every sexual contact is consensual. There isn’t one correct answer. Discuss their ideas with them. Depending on your teen, they may be so embarrassed at the idea of talking to you about this that they stop the conversation, which is fine. Once you’ve asked the question, you can leave their mind to fill in the blanks when it’s time… although bringing it up again when they’re in a romantic/ sexual relationship never hurts.

What conversations have you had with your teen about this? What was their reaction?

*Names changed


Part 1: The Steubenville Incident

Part 2: Drinking and Drugs

Part 3: The Age of Consent

Part 4: Trusting Your Gut

Part 5: Developmentally Delayed Teens

Part 7: Changing the Culture, One Teen at a Time

Part 8: The Media’s Response to the Steubenville Convictions