Talking About Tough Stuff With Your Teen
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Let's Chat1 of 11
Talking to your teen can be quite the challenge, what with competition from the iPod headphones that seem fused to your son's head or the relentless of texts that your daughter absolutely has to answer. Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, real-life married couple and authors of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story, as well as parents of a teen themselves, share how they attempt those heart-to-hearts.
Dad's Tips2 of 11
"My son's 13, but he might as well be 33 for everything he already knows about, thanks to YouTube, Family Guy and South Park. Although he 'knows' plenty, he has experienced precious little of the world's weary ways. That's where I come in, with my few golden nuggets of wisdom that I have painstakingly panned from a lifetime full of dreadful mistakes, terrible decisions and delusional reasoning."
Give Warnings3 of 11
"Death: It's scary, it's inevitable, it's depressing; best to make light of it! Start with the Woody Allen joke 'I'm not scared of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens.' Teens have a way to think that death is something that only happens to 'older' people, so you need to explain that they, too, have to be careful. I told my son that if I catch him hurdling himself and his skateboard helmet-less off a 'twelve-stair,' I'll kill him."
Use History4 of 11
"Bad things have happened and might again, but I like to frame the talks about events like terrorist attacks in historic terms so my son can understand how and why they occur. I put frightening topics into context: The chances of being caught in an attack are very rare, unless your idea of a vacation is going to hang in Baghdad, Kabul or, well, anywhere in Pakistan right now."
Lay Down The Law5 of 11
"I tell my son: Drink and drive and you die. Or, if you just get arrested, you're not Paris Hilton, so there will be major consequences. We're not at the teen driving years yet, but we live in L.A., where driving isn't so much a means to getting around as it is a death-defying hell on wheels. You can never ever take your eyes off the road, or you'll be crushed by lane-changers who don't signal."
Leave Yourself Out6 of 11
"Talking about sex is not tough for me. I can talk sex anytime, anyplace to anyone, anywhere. I let my son broach the subject of sex, and let me tell you, he knows everything there is to know, in detail. All I will say is, don't brag about your past sexual exploits. Teens won't be impressed, and you'll just be embarrassed by their repulsion."
Mom's Tips7 of 11
"Our son is 13 years old. He’s gone from being an adorable munchkin who sat on my lap eating pancakes in the mornings to greeting me with 'You're a terrible cook. I'll have a breakfast bar.' The last words I hear in the evening might just be 'I've heard enough of your voice for one day.' Here are my strategies for getting my son to talk to me."
Watch Scary Movies8 of 11
"Nothing sends my son into my arms faster than a terrifying flick, so I scour movie listings for the scariest film possible. Pathetic? Maybe, but it works. The ride home from such a film is also the perfect time to open up the topics of spirituality, free will, the nature of the soul and the importance of never buying a home with an antique-filled attic."
Go Online9 of 11
"That's right, I read my son's Facebook page. From his friends' postings, I can piece together a de facto narrative about what's actually going on in his life and then later attempt to posit relevant questions. I, of course, have been banned from posting myself, although I did enjoy hearing his anguished cry when he saw I had put 'Get off your computer and go to bed, babe' on his wall for friends to see."
Steer The Talk10 of 11
"As I enter the chauffer years, I've realized my son prefers to see me in one light only—the one above the driver's seat. While driving him, I've learned what not to do if I want him to continue to speak to me: Don't ask how school is going right before school, don't ask how school is going right after school, don't wear clothes that attract attention in front of his friends. The good news? We listen to the news together and debate world events."
Trick Him11 of 11
"This is one of my most successful ways to get my teenager to talk. I ask him to accompany me on my nightly run (full disclosure: I do a 15-minute mile). So if we do two miles, that's a good 30 minutes in which I might catch him off-guard. While he's distracted by how slow I am, he doesn't notice me asking questions. It's a magic trick and a weight loss strategy. Win-win."
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