Archive of ‘Parenting’ category

3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Part 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

One of the biggest no-no’s that parents are regularly committing is making the car a place where they connect with their teen.  Your kiddos rely on you for regular transportation, and in the car, there is nowhere to hide! The car is the perfect place to talk, right?

Imagine your teen’s perspective: she’s been “on” all day at school, learning, working, and socializing.  She had to remember her homework in Algebra, her project from Spanish, and her orchestra instrument.  She took a test in Language Arts and a quiz in World Geography.  Her best friend cried at lunch because her boyfriend was being distant, her friend group had some drama about a SnapChat post gone wrong, and her favorite teacher is out for the rest of the year because her mom is sick. Her head and heart are full from an exhausting day.   She gets in the car at the end of the day and shuts the door, ready to relax. Finally, no one is needing her or asking her to do anything.  

Instead, there you are, eager to talk – “How was your day?” “Did you do well on your quiz?” “Is Sarah still mad at Craig?” “Did you remember your project?”  You may have been thinking about her all day and wondering how she is doing, so when you see her, it feels natural to want to check in about all of these things, to show her you care, and to connect.  

However, it is critical that you give her the time and space she needs to decompress first, and that is different for every teen.  Most of them need at least a few minutes to stare out the window or listen to their music, and many of them need much more than that.  Notice their body language and cues – do they seem eager to talk right now? If not, respect their boundary and wait.  Nothing is worse than feeling cornered, even if you have the best intentions.  

And if you do have something import you need to confront your teen about, say their lack of studying in the evenings or refusal to follow your rule of no food in bedrooms, ask them when a good time would be to talk.  Find them at a neutral time at home, such as after dinner or during breakfast, and say “Hey- I want to check in with you about studying.  Would tonight or tomorrow night be better for you? What time?” Give them choices and some power to say what works for them.  Just because the issue feels urgent to you doesn’t mean it actually IS urgent.  Take a few deep breaths and seek cooperation and connection with your teen, not conflict and control.  

For more insight, consider signing up for our Positive Discipline Workshop for parents of teens and tweens!  Click HERE for more info. To read part 1: Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?, click HERE.

Help Your Teen Have a Healthy Dating Relationship

Healthy Teen Dating

In honor of February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it seems like a good time to shed light on the issue of teen dating relationships. It’s a startling reality that 1 out of 3 adolescents will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and only one-third of them will tell someone else about it. Many times, they themselves don’t realize that it’s a problem. Enduring dating violence at such a young age puts teens at risk for later developing mental health or substance abuse problems, and makes them more likely to experience domestic violence again in the future.

For these reasons, it’s highly important that parents openly discuss the concept of healthy and unhealthy relationships with their teenagers and help them understand what warning signs to watch for. Here are some suggestions to help get you started:

Have An Ongoing Conversation.

There’s no need for a formal sit-down lecture. Take advantage of opportunities as they naturally come up. Point out examples of both healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors you see in television, movies, and even your own past. It’s ideal to have both parents present for these talks, if possible.

Give Your Child Room To Share Their Own Opinions And Beliefs About Dating.
Amanda edit 2

By: Amanda Robinson, LPC, RPT

It will be more meaningful to them if they feel part of the conversation. Coming across as a lecturer will make them less likely to seek your advice and support in the future. Some talking points to consider:

  • What would you want in a partner? What are your “deal-breakers”?
  • Have you witnessed any unhealthy relationships among your friends or classmates? What did you see that you thought was unhealthy?
  • What do you think makes up a healthy relationship?
  • How would you know if you were in an unsafe relationship? How do you think you would feel? What would you do?
  • What have you liked/disliked about previous partners or relationships?
Reinforce That Dating Should Be Fun.

While it’s perfectly normal (and healthy) to have disagreements with one’s partner, they should definitely be balanced with fun and uplifting times. The relationship should never make your child question their worth as a person.

Talk Realistically About Sex.

Delineate both the pros and cons, and again, allow your teen to give their input. Yes, the conversation can be awkward, but sex is a frequent component of romantic relationships, and the topic should not be ignored. Remember to discuss responsibilities and the importance of respect – for both parties.

Emphasize Their Right To Say No To Anything They Feel Uncomfortable With.

Keep It Cool.

When there are differing viewpoints on a controversial topic, the discussion could start to get heated. If you can see that your teen is becoming frustrated and reacting defensively, back off. You want to be seen as a source of understanding, and they won’t engage with you if their walls are up.  Try it again another time.

Discuss Red Flags.

Talk about the signs of an unhealthy relationship with your teen. Emphasize that they can always come to you to talk things through, and reassure them that you’ll listen and respect their choices. Red flags:

  • Your partner constantly wants to know where you are and who you’re with
  • They try to keep you from spending time with friends and family
  • The person treats other people or animals with disrespect or cruelty
  • They blame you for relationship conflicts
  • They tell you how to dress or behave or how to spend your time
  • Your partner puts you down a lot, even in a “joking” way
  • The person harasses you to do things that you feel uncomfortable with
Provide Useful Resources.

Love is Respect offers a wealth of information for both parents and teens, including quizzes to help your child determine whether their relationship is healthy and affirming.

Above all else, it’s MOST important for you to listen and provide understanding in these conversations. Your teen will get more out of the connection with you than they will from a particular piece of wisdom or statistic. Remember, teenagers will not respect adults’ ideas and viewpoints unless they feel we respect theirs.

If you suspect that your teen may be in an unhealthy relationship, visit Love is Respect to find tips for helping your teen, or make an appointment with a knowledgeable therapist at Austin Family Counseling. For safety-planning, information, and support, The National Domestic Violence hotline is also a helpful resource.

3 Tips on Talking to Your Teen about Healthy Dating Relationships

When we began our academic career, way back when, our educators made sure they covered all the important topics: math, science, social studies, and language skills.  And, just to be sure we were well-rounded, they even threw in physical education and music!  But, what about everything else?  Like the weird-awkward-growing-up-stuff?  Those things that nobody talks about?  Like relationships!  How and where are teens today learning about healthy dating relationships?  Are your teens able to answer questions like: What does a good, healthy relationship look like? Who should I be in a relationship with? When should I start dating? What are healthy sexual behaviors?

By: Sumati Morris, LPC-Intern; Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Sumati Morris, LPC-Intern; Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

A few places where teens learn about “healthy relationships”:
  • parents and other family members
  • friends at school or in their community
  • media (TV, movies, and books)
  • internet
  • they take a school or community-based class entitled “Dating Relationships 101” *

* Just kidding, those classes do not usually exist.  But, don’t worry. You exist!  And you are able to help your kids better understand what a healthy relationship is and how to navigate dating relationships.

3 tips to foster good conversation on healthy teen dating relationships:

1) A quick, easy chat about the basics:

If you are a parent, and you have a teen, I suggest you ask your kid: “Hey, what do you think makes a good dating partner?”.  Since, I already know your kid is a smarty, I bet s/he responds with something like, “good communication, respect and doesn’t cheat!”. But, then, follow-up with the harder question: “Okay, now, what does that mean? What does “good communication” actually look like?” It’s easy to list the good stuff.  But, in day-to-day real life, it can be way harder to tell the difference between the good and the bad.  Use examples from your own life. “Dad showed me that he was listening and cared about my concerns when he made sure to ask me how my big meeting at work went.”  Or, “I had a feeling that my high school girlfriend didn’t trust me, because she was always investigating my every move, but she never talked to me about any of her concerns”.  Giving them real life examples of what a healthy relationship looks like helps them to know what to look for in their own dating relationships.

2) A reminder: you choose your dating partner!

Sometimes teens forget that they have a choice when it comes to dating.  Often times, kids want a boyfriend or girlfriend so badly, that they will deal with whatever is thrown their way. Remind your teen that ever since preschool, they have been allowed to pick and choose their own friends.  If someone was mean on the playground, they did not have to be friends with them.  If someone stole their lunch every day then nope, they did not have to invite them over for a play date.  If they were friends with someone, but then that friend did something mean, they could decide to stop being friends altogether.  It’s the same thing with dating relationships.  You get to pick the very best dating partner for you.  Just like you would not settle with a not so great friend, do not settle with a not so great dating partner. Remind your kid that s/he should expect to have the greatest dating partner ever.  Because they deserve to!

3) Talking is key:

Remind your kiddo that nobody knows what they are doing all the time, particularly with relationships.  We are all here trying to figure out this weird and complicated world of dating. Encourage your teen to talk to the people they trust when they have questions.  Encourage conversations with their peers, and especially with their dating partners.  We should all be talking about our concerns, our fears and our questions about dating!  If your kid is worried that their dating partner is cheating, lying, doesn’t like them anymore, or anything else – encourage your kid to speak directly with him or her.   Just as you would talk to your friends if they made you upset, worried you, or made you mad, you should and you can talk to your dating partners, too.

For more tips about healthy teen dating relationships, you can:

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