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How to Have Difficult Conversations with Your Teenager

Jan 17, 2024 | Adolescent Treatment, Co-Parenting, Communication, Family Issues

Having tough conversations with your teen is one of the hardest parts of parenting. For many, especially first-time teen parents, it can feel forced and uncomfortable to do so. Trying to figure out what topics to bring up and how to deliver your concerns can be difficult. Even so, being able to have these difficult conversations with your teenager is crucial. They need to know that you are a safe person to talk to and that they always have a confidant. In this blog, we touch on why these conversations feel so hard and share tips for how to have difficult conversations with your teenager.

Understanding the Teenage Mind

Adolescents are undergoing constant cognitive, emotional, and social development. Hormonal changes are bound to impact their mood and behavior, making it crucial to approach conversations with empathy and patience. Recognizing that your teen is forming their identity and seeking autonomy can help you frame discussions in a way that resonates with them.

Build Trust and Establish Open Communication

Trust is the foundation of any healthy parent-teen relationship. Create an environment where your teenager feels safe expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment. Listen to their concerns and validate their feelings and experiences. Avoid being overly critical or dismissive because this can hinder communication. Setting aside dedicated time for regular check-ins or casual conversations can contribute to building trust.

Touch on Tough Topics Regularly

Although there are likely some topics that are uncomfortable to discuss with your teen, doing so will help them to feel comfortable coming to you in times of need. Unfortunately, avoiding tough conversations does your teen a disservice. Be sure to regularly bring up tough topics so that they don’t feel taboo. Knowing that they can come to you, regardless of the reason, will help keep your relationship healthy.

Explain Your Reasoning

Giving your teen direction or rules is important, but not explaining your reasoning can cause them to shut down. Rather than making a direct command, offer insight as to why it is necessary. For example, not using their phone at the table might be a rule that you have. Instead of forcefully telling them to put the phone away, explain that family time is important and that being free of distractions helps the time be more meaningful. This way, they feel respected and can understand your point of view.

Be Mindful of Your Tone and Body Language

Non-verbal cues play a big role in communication. Maintain a calm and composed demeanor, using a tone that conveys understanding rather than criticism. Avoid confrontational body language, like crossing your arms or maintaining intense eye contact, as this can make your teenager defensive. Demonstrating empathy through your tone and body language reinforces the idea that you are there to understand and support them.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Not every issue requires a full-blown discussion. Prioritize the topics that are truly important and save your energy for those moments. This approach prevents unnecessary conflict and ensures that your teenager doesn’t feel overwhelmed by constant scrutiny. Pick your battles wisely, focusing on issues that impact their well-being, safety, or values.

Provide Guidance Without Imposing

While you do need to be able to offer guidance, avoid being overly prescriptive. Encourage your teenager to think critically and make decisions on their own, allowing them to learn from their experiences. By offering support rather than imposing your opinions, you empower them to develop decision-making skills and a sense of responsibility.

Final Thoughts

Having hard conversations with your teenager is an inevitable part of parenting, but with the right approach, it can strengthen your bond. Parents struggle with the teen years to some degree. The changes in hormones and parent-child dynamics can throw even the most experienced parents for a loop. Hang in there and know that things will get better as you work to improve your communication with your teen.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you have a teenager who is in crisis because of mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  To learn more about our treatment programs for teenagers, visit our website at or contact us at 800-685-9796.