5 Tough Topics to Discuss with Your Teen

Do’s and Don’ts When Having Tough Conversations

129944287.jpg
Clarissa Leahy/Cultura/Getty Images

Living in the information age, our teens are exposed to a wide array of places where they can get advice.  However, not all of it is accurate, and it is not always coming from reliable sources. As Christians, we want to raise our children with integrity and provide them with information that will help them grow. Yet some topics that are important to discuss with teens are difficult to broach. Some parents take on a puritanical mindset when it comes to certain tough topics -- thinking these topics are not Christian-like to discuss.

However, parents are a significant authority and source of advice in their teenagers' lives. By applying Biblical advice to these topics, you can offer your teen real guidance, even if they're uncomfortable issues to talk about. It's imperative as parents to get past the embarrassment, put on a brave face, sit down with your teen and get to talking.

Peer Pressure

As teens hit their adolescent years, their social development takes a primary role.  They feel a need to belong, and this is why we spend so much time discussing peer pressure. Your teen needs to feel empowered to say no to things like sex, drugs, or even just semi-bad behavior. It will be tempting for them to do what all their friends are doing. So sit down with your teen to discuss the things their friends are pressuring them to do.  

Don’t: Avoid saying, “Well, just say no” or “Just get new friends.” As much as we want our teens to just walk away, friends do matter, and it's not always so easy to make new ones.

Also, avoid being overly preachy and just quoting the Bible. It helps to use the Bible as a source of inspiration, but not if it’s just lip service.

Do: Provide real advice as to how to deal with letting their friends down and what being a real friend means. Give them Biblical advice in a way that allows them to use it in real ways.

 Use examples from your own life of mistakes you made and times you didn’t give in. Explain and understand the real consequences of saying no, because sometimes doing the right thing means losing friends or feeling left out.  

Teen Sexuality

Talking to your teen about sex is hard, period. It’s not a comfortable subject because sex can be a very private -- and let's face it, embarrassing -- thing for parents and kids to discuss. Most teens will try to avoid it, and so do many parents. However, try getting out of bed without seeing sexual messages on the TV, magazines, billboards, bus stops, and more. Yet there are specific messages on sex that come from the Bible (including that it is not a bad thing and natural), and it is important that teens understand the consequences of sex before marriage. It’s also important that your teen is able to grasp what is sexual and what is not, and they need to know it’s okay to not have sex.

Don’t tell your teen that sex is bad. It’s not, and the Bible actually describes it as beautiful -- but in the right context. Also, avoid lying about what sex is, how teens can get pregnant, and more. Lies can actually distort your teen’s view of sex to where it prevents them from having healthy relationships later.

 

Do make it a point to be honest about sex. Explain it from a real standpoint of what is involved. If you’re too embarrassed, there are some great books or seminars that describe sex tastefully and realistically. Do acknowledge the feelings your teen may be having. Thinking about sex is normal. But make sure they understand what having sex at their age can mean for them and their future plans. Be understanding and kind, but be real.  

Drugs, Smoking & Drinking

So, talking about drugs, smoking, and drinking may not seem that hard, but the conversation needs to go deeper than saying, “Just say no.” Many teens think they can just drink and smoke as long as they don’t do drugs, they’re fine. Some think some drugs are okay, but not others. From a Biblical standpoint, we need to care for our bodies, and none of these things are good for us.

If you do smoke, drink, or do drugs, this conversation can be even more difficult, and it will take time to explain the difference between adult decisions vs. teen decisions.  

Don’t go with the easy platitudes. Have real conversations about the effects of drugs, smoking, and alcohol. Don’t lump them all together as equal, either, but be factual: Smoking after 18 is legal. Drinking after 21 is legal. In some states, some drugs are legal. Try not to be fatalistic or overly dramatic. There are real consequences to doing drugs or smoking, and it can lead to very bad things, but going from zero to 100 without explaining the in-between lessens the impact.

Do understand what’s out there. There will always be the known street drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, but there are new drugs out there as well as old drugs with new names. Be honest about why people do these things. Explain why you might have a glass of wine with a nice dinner sometimes. Be ready for your teen to confront you about your behavior, and also explain the difference between one beer and binge drinking.  

Bullying

Bullying is becoming a more acceptable topic of discussion, and while it seems easy on the surface, it actually can be difficult. There are a lot of emotions involved when it comes to bullying. Teens who are being bullied by others often feel embarrassed by it. They don’t want to admit to a weakness or they’re afraid of revealing who the bullies are in fear of retribution. So talking about bullying may seem easy in general, but it’s important to use tact and ask targeted questions when talking to your teen.

Don’t judge your teen. Avoid telling them to just suck it up and deal with the bullying. Bullying not only has an emotional impact on your child, but it can sometimes have a very real physical and social impact. If your teen is the bully, don’t just deal with the behavior through punishment. Yes, consequences are important, but there is usually an emotional reason behind the behavior -- get your teen help. Avoid telling your teen to fight bullying with violence or other actions that could be just as bad as the bullying. There are resources and help out there for teens facing bullies that are useful.

Do find help for your teen that is real and that works. There are plenty of anti-bullying websites and books, and schools also offer a great deal of anti-bullying resources. Make sure your teen feels loved and heard.  Assure your teen that you will do what you can to protect them. Also, make sure they understand what bullying is because sometimes they don’t even know they’re being bullies to someone else. Finally, make sure they understand how to deal with bullying when they see it, even if they aren’t the victims.

Their Body

God asks us to take care of our bodies, so understanding how our bodies work is important in caring for it.  While all the other topics on this list seem like typical parenting conversations, not everyone is ready to talk to their teen about the physical changes they are experiencing. This means parents have to get over any embarrassment about discussing the things that can happen to the adolescent body.

Don’t rely solely on outside information. Health classes are great for giving your teen a baseline to understand is happening to them but don’t trust that it’s enough. Check in with your teen to see how they’re feeling and what they need. Don’t make them feel that certain bodily functions are not normal if they are a part of puberty and growing up. (Menstruation -- normal. Nocturnal emission -- normal.) 

Do ask your teen what they’re learning from their health classes or their peers. You’d be amazed at all the false information that teens pass on from one person to another. If you don’t feel comfortable with a topic, ask a doctor or someone else that may feel comfortable to help. If your teen is adamant that they won’t discuss things with you, then find out who they do feel comfortable with, and ask that person for help.  Also, do research if you don’t know the answer to their questions, and be willing to admit it.  

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Mahoney, Kelli. "5 Tough Topics to Discuss with Your Teen." ThoughtCo, Jan. 16, 2018, thoughtco.com/tough-topics-to-discuss-with-your-teen-712695. Mahoney, Kelli. (2018, January 16). 5 Tough Topics to Discuss with Your Teen. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tough-topics-to-discuss-with-your-teen-712695 Mahoney, Kelli. "5 Tough Topics to Discuss with Your Teen." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tough-topics-to-discuss-with-your-teen-712695 (accessed January 23, 2018).