Tough conversations: How to have "the talk" with teens about safety

While parents of generations past struggled to have the dreaded 'sex talk,' today's parents must broach a whole new set of challenging topics from protocol for school shootings to texting while driving. Honesty is key.

AP Photo/The Spectrum & Daily News, Jud Burkett
A sign reminding drivers of the fine amount for texting while driving stands on the side of the road across from Santa Clara Elementary School in Santa Clara, Utah, May 23, 2013. At least 100 signs warning drivers not to text have gone up in Washington County this spring, thanks to the work of a family who lost a loved one to distracted driving.

We are raising our teens in complicated times, or at least it often feels that way. When we talked about "school safety" when I was growing up, we were talking about looking both ways before crossing the street. These days as parents we are required to have some difficult talks with our teens. I never dreamed I would have to discuss protocol during a school shooting with my teen.

Of course some of the tough talks parents have been giving for eons. Precautionary discussions about sex and drugs have long been on most parents’ agendas. These days texting while driving is a hot topic as well.

Taking on difficult topics with your teen is certainly part of the job description. The key perhaps is that few topics should be addressed in one single conversation. Talking with your teens should always be an interactive experience. Although at times we may have the inclination to do so-talking at them usually doesn’t end all. Lectures often result in a lack of listening. Few things are worse than trying to get your message across to ears that refuse to really hear you. Check in with your teen, he is sure to have a similar complaint about you. Remember the last time you set a firm limit despite his best attempts at reasoning with you?

Although some of today’s topics may be tough to tackle with your teens, one thing is certain; communication is the key to a caring, supportive, and satisfying relationship. Research reflects that adults who report having good communication with their parents lead healthier, more satisfying lives.

Some topics are certainly harder to approach than others. It helps to be upfront and honest about this with your teen. Nothing resounds better with a teen than pure honesty, being real. A quick, “hey this is kind of embarrassing for me to talk with you about,” or, “I am not really how to talk about this with you, so here it goes,” will break the potential tension and allow your teen to really hear what you have to say.

Tough talks are just that, tough. The more often you communicate with your teen however, the stronger your connection to her. Tough talks are difficult; the consequences of avoiding those talks however, can be devastating.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg blogs at Talking Teenage.

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