•Talk with your teen about his interests (music, sports, hobbies, plans for the weekend, future goals).
•Schedule family time. All teens need to feel that they’re a valued member of the family. Part of that will come from setting aside family time to do regular activities together, such as going to the movies, going for a hike or skating. Family meals are an excellent way to connect with each other and talk about the things that happened during the day. Research also shows that having at least one family meal a day can prevent your teen from experimenting with risky health behaviour. Spending time as a family will help you know your teen as he grows and develops.
•Listen. Teens want their parents to listen to their stories, concerns and feelings with patience, understanding, and acceptance. Your teen needs to believe he can share problems and issues, and know that you will support him. It’s also a good idea to repeat her own words when discussing what your teen tells you so that she knows you understand.
•Be prepared and willing to discuss the things he wants to talk about. Think about the things your teen might want to talk about (relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol) so that you are ready when he comes to you with difficult questions or ideas.
•Treat your teen with respect and don’t dismiss his feeling or opinions. Find ways to discuss and acknowledge your differences without judging. Listen to your teen’s point of view with an open mind. Active listening will help your teen feel important, know that you take her concerns seriously, and will strengthen your relationship.
•Be trustworthy. Don’t make fun of your teen, or share his personal stories with others. Respecting your teen’s desire for privacy is important. If you do, he is more likely to talk about issues like violence, abuse, harassment or severe mood problems.
•Stay calm, and try not to get frustrated. Your questions and tone of voice might put your teen on the defensive.
•Offer help, even if your teen doesn’t ask. The challenge is to be involved without intruding and to let your teen know you are always available.
•Avoid lectures. If your teen’s stories spark a lecture from you, she’ll be less likely to share with you another time. Express your concerns, but know that it’s normal for teens to experiment. Be upfront about the rules and consequences.
•Keep it short, and to the point. Teens generally won’t stay focused for long conversations.
•Plan. Set aside regular time to catch up, or talk about issues your teen is facing. Another good place to talk with your teen is while travelling together in the car, when you have a captive audience.
•Step away. If a conversation becomes emotional or heated, it is probably a good idea to step away and come back to it when everyone has calmed down.
•Be honest about your feelings. If you are, your teen may be more open with you.
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