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Health & Parenting

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Talking with Your Teen -- David Elkind, PhD


It's the same idea as, "Other kids will get hooked on drugs, other kids will get pregnant, not me." That's how kids can get into trouble at this age of 13 or 14 because they think they're special. That's when kids can really get into trouble.

Member question: I find myself frequently asking my 15-year-old son if there were drugs and alcohol present at the home where he has just spent time. I'm concerned that I am placing too great an influence on the subject and don't know how to keep in touch with him and his life without constantly questioning him about it.

Elkind: If we have done our job well, and communicated our values, most kids find other people that share the same values that they do. It's sometimes the kids that are not well-parented that get into trouble. If you feel you have communicated your values, and you've set good examples, I would trust him to find friends with the same values. Communicate that you trust him to handle these things if they come up. If he senses you don't trust him that can undo things you've taught in the past. So be careful in overdoing the questioning.

We know our kids well, and we know whether or not they are responsive to pressure. If we think our kids are basically responsible young people, we should communicate that rather than questioning whether they do or not. Leave it at that rather than interrogating him after the fact.

Member question: I have a 14-year-old (15 in November) who is ADHD. We have a lot of trouble communicating. He lies about little things (not so much the bigger/important things). Every conversation we have is an argument -- he has to be right and has to have the last word. It is hard to differentiate between what is normal teenage years, typical boy, and ADHD. HELP!

Elkind: It is difficult because sometimes being diagnosed and on medication, there can be a lot of resentment from being treated special, and so on, that can come out in other ways. Sometimes it's a personality trait. I often find that when kids behave this way, often someone in the family has the same characteristic.

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