Home » Having Difficult Conversations With Your Teenager: 5 Things Everyone Must Remember

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Teenager: 5 Things Everyone Must Remember

As fathers, it can be safe to say that we are caught on the wrong foot many times in the upbringing of our children. A very good example is when we need to have those difficult conversations. Whether your child is after a piercing or tattoo, or you need to have difficult conversations about their behaviour, there is a lot that we can do to ensure, whatever difficult conversation we need to have with our children, it provides a viable solution. What does it really take to have difficult conversations with your teenager?

Listen First

As parents, it can be our instinct to shut them down. It is critical that we are there to listen first, to carefully consider what they said before we give our measured response. For example, if your child is after a piercing, we can immediately say “no” because we think that they are “too young” or something we’ve got into our heads. But the fact is that whether your mind immediately goes to the fact that they may be getting a piercing in a very sexualised area, or they are going for alternative tragus earrings piercings that you think look “strange,” the fact is when you are having a conversation like this, you should not be speaking.

We need to validate our children’s feelings, and it doesn’t mean you need to agree with them, but the conversation is about you listening and you having an actual understanding as to how they think and why they are asking about this. Your child has an opinion, and whatever it is they want, you need to remember that you are not wiser because you’ve been around longer. They want something, so listen to them.

Stay Calm

A conversation that immediately triggers stress or anger in you is going to put that conversation dead in the water, resulting in communication problems that could take a long time to get right. Before you go into any form of conversation, you’ve got to consider what they call “red light” topics. It depends on what the subject is all about, but if they’re trying to get you around to their way of thinking, and you are putting up barriers, you have to be prepared in case the conversation sets off certain triggers in you.

You need to stay on topic and listen, but if the conversation starts to descend into some form of mudslinging, or you’re not listening to each other but merely raising your voices at each other, you’ve got to step away and decide that you will finish this another time after you have both calmed down.

Ask Questions

If your child has something they want to get off their chest, you need to listen, but you need to then ask questions to make sure that you understand what they need. Our children want to know that their opinion is important to us, and as parents, we can be very guilty of forcing our opinions on them and ignoring theirs. This is why, for the purposes of any form of conversation, you need to ask questions and ensure that you wait for the answers.

This is so important with teenagers because they will tell you that, whatever happens, you aren’t respecting them or you are not listening to them. You need to get the bigger picture in the conversation, so all of these questions will help to clarify things while also making your child feel heard.

Think Before You Respond

Our children will know how to push your buttons because they’ve had years of experience! Before you spit back in retaliation, think about what you are going to say. If what you were about to say has no value, you can save it for another time or just let it go. You need to remember that you could easily damage your relationship, not just in terms of the things you say, but how you say them.

It is important that, if you are having a difficult conversation with your teen, whether they are asking for a tattoo or they have done something bad, it’s important that you also remember to be kind. It’s so easy to shame our children because they’ve done something wrong or they want to do something that we do not endorse. We need to be productive in our conversations at this point. Therefore, we should not add any fuel to the fire, consciously or unconsciously. This will draw attention to the negative aspects, but you need to show them kindness in the chaos.

Even if they do not agree with you, and they start to push your buttons, this is where you’ve got to be as humane as possible and not give in to those negative emotions. Your children have spent years knowing how to flip your switches, and it’s these scenarios where you are put to the test as a parent.

Be Respectful and Loving

Depending on the situation we may have to set specific boundaries, especially if the conversation is affecting the rest of the family. Boundaries are there for their protection. If your child wants a piercing and you have said “no,” you’ve got to set boundaries that you can keep. It’s not about making threats, but about helping them recognise that it’s for their protection, but you can only do this if you explain why you are setting boundaries.

Many parents say “no” and don’t give a reason why or rely on the “because I said so” response, which is only going to build the gulf between you. But it also means that you need to reaffirm your love for them and be respectful and honest about your concerns. This means doing the hard lifting and making these tough decisions that, in the long run, will have positive outcomes. The most important thing for you to remember is the big picture because you telling them they can’t do something now is an affront to their freedom from their perspective, but you know in the long run it will make them more responsible and better people as a result. Whatever the issue, be it a disagreement, or a tough conversation, they should still walk away from the conversation knowing that you still care.