Tips for talking to your teen

The Solution Process:

By now I hope everybody is familiar with my thoughts on writing to teenagers--short notes get around their innate defensiveness and open new lines of communication. Think of teens as two people--a little child and an emergent, responsible adult. For the most part, kids reserve their worst behaviors for home, so you see lots of the little child. Notes do not let you see more of the emergent adult, but they do allow you to communicate with this part of your teenager. And at this time, more than anything else, you need to feel you are communicating with your son.

Before going further I want to emphasize that this is a process, not a single-step solution. What you say is important, but in the long run, no more important than you hanging in there with your son--supporting him and maintaining consistent structure in his life. With that said, let's look at some of the things you might want to communicate to your son over the course of time.

  • While you do not know the details you can see that this is a difficult time for him. It is also a difficult time for you. You want to be the best parent you can be, and, unfortunately, that might include not being liked a lot right now.
  • You are more concerned with how he works than the grades he gets. Your measurement is more in the effort than just the grades. You want him to get better at persevering when he doubts himself.
  • That, like it or not, when he gets into trouble (like an F in Study Hall) he is writing you a big invitation to get involved in his school life. While you would prefer not to get involved at this level, you have no choice if you want to be a good parent.
  • Being a teenager is difficult, but that you will work with him if he works with you. Encourage him to come up with solutions and to tell you the role he wants you to play. Ask him to trust you to be flexible and able to compromise.
  • Finally, that while you might not like each other much these days he should never confuse that with you not loving him. You are proud of him and always will be. You love him immensely, so much so that you are willing to play the bad guy for awhile, until he gets his bearings again.

He may not look it, but your son is scared and confused. He needs understanding and consistent structure, but do not expect him to be grateful--at least not until he leaves home. Good luck, and hang in there.

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