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Talking with Your Teen -- David Elkind, PhD



Between the two of you it's difficult -- you can say to her, "I know you are frightened, and angry too, but we have to deal with it." Verbalizing may help. We have to deal with reality, but sometimes at that age, they may be able to really listen. So see if it is possible for her to see someone, even a close friend who can talk to her without the emotional overlay that's there between you.

Member question: My 15-year-old son has recently begun hanging out with a group that he knows I don't like. What can I do?

Elkind: Usually what happens in those situations is that we need to establish credibility. Often our judgment of not liking peers is based on how they dress, talk, and so on. One way to handle it is to have those kids over for dinner or a party or ice cream or something, so that you have an opportunity to talk with them a little and learn about them.

If, after that, you still have a negative attitude, you then have facts to base your judgments on. So you gain credibility if your son or daughter sees you invite them over, talk with them, try to get to know them a little, and get to know them on that. Kids are more willing to listen if you have taken the time to know them a little better.

Member question: Could you give me advice on raising a teen boy without the help of his father?

Elkind: It's difficult. Certainly, one wants to be careful not to put him in the role of the parent or partner. He's still a teen and needs to be parented. If there is a uncle or friend to not be a father, but a male role to be related to, that he relates to and can do things with, who can play surrogate father role, that is probably the best solution. But it's also important not to have him play the partner role, "you're the man of the house" kind of thing. That puts a little too much responsibility on the young man, and he needs to be treated like the son.

Member question: My daughter is 13 years old. A girl in her class is her best friend and they are inseparable. She doesn't enjoy anything if her friend is not involved. They always want to hang around together, either in her house or in ours. They both are real cute, but I just want to have your opinion whether this is unhealthy and what I should do about this.

Elkind: It's a very common relationship, one psychiatrists call a "chumship" -- a very close relationship between the two of the same sex, developing a heterosexual relationship, learning social skills, and so on. This is part of the new sense of self, the need for privacy, separation from adults, and the need to share with someone who is in somewhat the same position.

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