The key to parenting a teenager: communication

Feb 10, 2015, 3:58 PM | Updated: 3:58 pm

Valentine's Day is around the corner. Though known worldwide as a day of love, for parents of teenagers it can seem more like a nightmare.

As your little angel matures, you will start to hear about who is taking who on a date; or who they hope they will go to the dance with; or how cute their lab partner is. You may even hear the words, “But daddy, I love him!” If this is all too real for you, there is one simple trick to survive this emotional and hormonal time of year: communication.

Communication is pinnacle in helping our kids keep their head on straight with love, sex, drugs, alcohol and every other influence on them. A 2002 study on parent-child communication found that kids who do not talk with their parents about drugs have the highest drug involvement. If they're not talking to you, they are most likely getting their information from peers.

Now is the time to get involved and build communication with your kids. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

1. Start early and often

Build a relationship that is open while your child is young. It is a bit easier to develop this type of relationship when they are not in the teenage stage of life. But remember, it is never to late to start communicating with your children; it may just take some time. Make as many positives interactions as possible. Even if these interactions are a few seconds at a time, they build up and create a relationship. Spending 15 minutes with your child, one on one, will also facilitate closeness.

2. Don't avoid awkward subjects

Yes, this means the “sex talk.” If you can talk straight with your child about sex, drugs and alcohol, they will be more inclined to ask you questions when an issue comes up (and it will). When this happens you can be a positive influence on them.

If you are worried about drinking, breaks it down to three easy steps: bonding (close relationship), boundaries and monitoring. The website also has great information on the impacts of drinking and how to approach the subject.

Another wonderful resource is, which is a youth health education program. The website has resources on everything from sex, dating violence and HIV to body image, self-esteem and diversity.

If it is hard for you not to stumble over your words while talking anatomy, just be open with them and explain that you are flustered with the subject. After all, you want them to be honest with you so be honest with them.

3. Sneak it in (if you have to)

If your teenager's face is always buried in his or her phone, it may be difficult to talk. Go do something active — a hike, a bike ride, a game, skiing, snowshoeing, or rock climbing. If a child has to focus on an activity they are less likely to keep up their defensives. Before you know it, you'll be in an in-depth conversation.

4. Respect their feelings and opinions

The teenage stage is the awkward stage right before adulthood. It is very important in developing the person we become. As naive and mislead as some of the statements our teenagers make are, that is their way of experimenting with who they want to be. The key is to listen to what your child is saying; think about it from their point of view and respect what they feel. Even if it sounds ridiculous to you, it is a very real thought for them. The only exception to this rule is if they are going to hurt themselves or others, then it is time to step in.

5. Lead by example

The best way to teach your teen how to develop a loving and respectful relationship is by example. As much as our teenagerss roll their eyes at us, it is hard to believe they are paying attention to what we are doing. However, they model our behaviors throughout their childhood and it continues into the teenage stage as well. When it comes to your own relationships it is important that you show respect and love in an appropriate manner. Even if you are divorced, it is important that you have respectful communication with your ex. This shows your teen how two adults can no longer be in a relationship but still be kind and respectful to one another for a common good (their children).

Jessie Shepherd, MA, ACMHC is a specialist in assisting children, adolescents and parents to overcome life’s challenges. Learn more about her by visiting

Eyes on Parenting

(Pexels Photo)...

Teen arrested for allegedly accidently shooting 17-year-old in Phoenix

A 16-year-old boy was arrested Friday afternoon following a fatal shooting in Phoenix, authorities said. 
3 months ago
(Pexels Photo)...

1-year-old in extremely critical condition after drowning incident in Phoenix

A 1-year-old girl was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition after drowning in a pool in Phoenix on Saturday, authorities said.
11 months ago
(File Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)...
Griselda Zetino

Arizona students get lower standardized test results during the pandemic

Results from statewide testing done in the spring provide a first look at how the pandemic has impacted students across Arizona.
12 months ago
(Pexels Photo)...

10-month-old in critical condition after drowning incident in East Valley

A 10-month-old boy in the East Valley was hospitalized Sunday evening following a drowning incident, authorities said.
1 year ago
(Pexels Photo)...

2-year-old in extremely critical condition after drowning in Phoenix

A 2-year-old girl was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition after drowning in a pool in Phoenix on Saturday, authorities said.
1 year ago
(Pexels Photo)...

4-year-old in extremely critical condition after drowning in Phoenix

A 4-year-old boy was taken to a local pediatric hospital in extremely critical condition after a drowning incident on Monday, authorities said.
1 year ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
The key to parenting a teenager: communication