Difficult conversations can be hard to have at any age. Difficult topics for teenagers can include bullying, friendship issues, mental health, drugs, dating, and more. When having a difficult talk with a teen, there are many ways to make it easier and more meaningful for both parties involved. Below we will outline 5 ways that will aid you in having a complex conversation with a teen in your life.
1. Create a comfortable environment
The first step to any meaningful talk is the environment it is set in. Think about it; we can all remember a time from our past when a talk had gone poorly, and not only do we remember the talk, but we remember it like it was yesterday. When considering what a comfortable environment might be for a difficult talk, here are our tips:
- Privacy: If this is a talk with a serious subject matter, then privacy is a must so that both parties can feel comfortable sharing.
- Common Ground: This is not a lecture but a discussion. Instead of having a talk across one another, try sitting side by side to level the playing field.
2. Allow room for Questions
It is important that you allow space for your teen to ask questions about the topic. Asking questions back is good for gaining understanding and establishing a level of trust and safety.
3. Stay calm
It can be difficult to discuss topics that make us uncomfortable. Take alcohol, for example. If you find out your teen has been drinking underage, take time for them to explain themselves before coming down on them too hard. Drinking at a young age can also signify mental health struggles. This could be a good opportunity to discuss the dangers of underage drinking on one's health and the dangers of drinking to cope with mental health issues.
4. Avoid Judgment or Harsh Criticisms
When discussing hard topics, it can be difficult not to jump to judgment or make harsh criticisms about your teen and their choices. This is a time to talk, listen, offer advice, and set expectations/boundaries. Remember, one can set firm boundaries without lashing out and judgment. By avoiding this, your teen is more likely to open up and talk to you honestly.
5. Listen just as much as you talk
Give your teen time to talk and tell the whole story in their own words, after they have opened up to you about what is going on. Before jumping into the conversation, listen to what they tell you, then offer your opinion.
We hope that these strategies are useful for you the next time you have a difficult conversation with a teen in your life. Many of the topics mentioned are covered in The Emozi® High School SEL program.