What's the matter? Nothing. Where are you going? Out. Do you
want to talk? No. Does this sound like typical communication between you and
your teen? If so, explore these tips for starting an open and frank discussion
about drugs, sex, self-esteem, and other vital issues. David Elkind, PhD, was
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Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live, Dr. Elkind. Why do parents
have such difficulty talking with their teens?
Elkind: Well, a lot of reasons. I think that young
people, for the first time, can realize that they can think one thing and say
another, that their thoughts are private. It's a whole new level of thinking.
They have a certain concern about privacy, because they realize that what
they're thinking no one else is thinking. They can now think about their own
thinking, and they develop a sense of privacy. So when adults ask them, it's an
intrusion on their newfound privacy, on their thinking. That's one reason
adolescents are more reluctant to talk than children might be. They may not be
ready to share their thoughts right away.
Moderator: Given their newfound sense of privacy, how do we
engage them in conversation?
Elkind: One way is to listen. I think sometimes we're so
eager to talk we're not willing to ask. Sometimes it's more important to share.
We sometimes ask questions like an interrogator. If we share some of our
experiences with them, what happened in your day, adolescents might be more
willing to share their thoughts. They see us as being private and not willing
to share ours, so if we share ours, they may be more willing to share theirs.
That's one strategy.
Ideally we begin preparing
for adolescence when our children are very young, when we listen and respond,
giving them opportunities for them to respond. Sharing in this way, by starting
when children are small, listening to them and involving them in
decision-making, we prepare the way for better communication once they become
question: I have four kids, the
oldest being 13. When should I talk to her about sex and peer pressure into
having sex, doing drugs, foul language, etc.? How do I approach these subjects
and still get her to listen and understand?
Elkind: It's very important to talk to young people about
sex, not just sexual relations but also about their bodies and maturation.
Young people often don't know about the changes going on in their bodies, and
the information is very useful; a book like Our Bodies Ourselves is an
excellent one for this age group.