Karen Casey Coaching

How to Talk to Your Tween About Difficult Things

While it is normal for your child to start pulling away and wanting more independence as they enter their tween years; it may come as a surprise that they need more support than ever. It can be difficult to talk with your tween about tough topics, but it is very important to have the conversations so that your child will know they can come to you about anything that is on their mind. By talking to them about things like alcohol, drugs, sex, and all types of bullying, you can help to prepare them to make informed decisions and be prepared for difficult situations that may come sooner than later. 

Here are some tips to help you approach these conversations with your child. Keep your tone and friendly stepping away from intense, preachy conversations when discussing hard topics. It will help in the long run to foster honest conversation. 

Choose the right time and place. Find a quiet and comfortable setting where you and your tween can feel relaxed and focused. Avoid having the conversation when either of you is rushed, stressed, or distracted. 

Be Age- Appropriate: It is tempting to assume our tween knows more than they really do as they often behave older. It is important to gauge where your tween is at before you launch into a conversation. For example, a younger tween may not be ready for a conversation about sex, but your older tween is curious and the time seems right. 

Use “I” statements: When we begin sentences with “I” to express thoughts and feelings, it helps us avoid sounding judgmental or accusatory. It also helps with avoiding a defensive response and keeps the conversation focused on your perspective. 

Use Simple Language: Use language that your child will understand. Stick to simple words and sentences so your child can follow your conversation. Avoid using slang and jargon that you may assume they know or understand.

Encourage questions: Invite your tween to ask questions and share their thoughts about the conversation. Reassure your tween that their opinion matters and practice listening actively with eye contact and letting them finish their thoughts. Hard topics can lead us to talk too fast and rush through these conversations because we might feel a bit uncomfortable. 

Use examples and stories: Share personal stories as it feels appropriate. It will help your conversation to be relatable and authentic. Your tween will be more engaged in listening to what you are sharing. 

Be Open-Minded: In coaching with parents, this can be a place where parents often get stuck. Our fears for our child get the best of us and we launch into “shoulds” which shuts down the conversation. They may want to share what they have heard from friends or share their own experiences. Try, try not to respond with shock even if you are feeling it. Listen without judgment to the best of your ability. Honestly, this can be hard for some parents due to our own fears. 

Bring it up again later: Hard topics need to have many conversations over the years. Bringing the topic up at a later time shows your tween that you are still interested in talking about what they are experiencing and open the door to sharing their thoughts. 

Hang in there! These conversations can be challenging but it is worth our time and investment in being proactive by talking about hard topics. 

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