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Having ongoing conversations with your child can help build a healthy, supportive relationship. It can also help you and your child avoid or reduce conflict as situations arise throughout their teen years.

Here are tips for talking with your child:

  1. Be Brief: Avoid long comments and conversations that might be seen as
    lecturing. Allow your teen to speak and let him know that he is being heard. Giving him the floor by asking brief open-ended questions such as, “What are some of the reasons you think those kids were drinking?,” can produce much more effective and interactive conversations than simply telling him why people who use drugs are making poor decisions.
  2. Be Positive: Stay upbeat and avoid blaming. teens need to hear the “good stuff” just like the rest of us. When you reward good behavior kids are likely to repeat it. (example: “You did a great job leaving that situation early, it shows you are an independent person and I’m proud of you.”
  3. Refer to Specific Behaviors: State what you want — not what you don’t want — and identify exactly what you want your child to do in terms of specific actions (example: “I want you to be home by eleven o’clock.” versus “Don’t stay out late.”) Don’t ask your child to change his or her thoughts, feelings, or attitudes (example: “You need to think more responsibly about when you come home.”)
  4. Label Your Feelings: State how you feel (not what you think) calmly in a non-judgmental manner (example: “I care about you and I worry when you aren’t home on time.”) If your teen dismisses you and says, “Don’t worry,” acknowledge her feelings, but remind her that it is your job to protect her.
  5. Offer an Understanding Statement: Convey some understanding of your child’s perspective (example: “I know you really want to fit in with your friends…)
  6. Accept Partial Responsibility: This is hard for some parents to do, but it can be very helpful in connecting with your child (example: “I may not have told you what I expected as clearly as I could have…”)

Used with permission from Treatment Research Institute and the Partnership at Drugfree.org