5 Tough Topics Moms Must Talk to Their Kids About Now

5 Tough Topics Moms Must Talk to Their Kids About Now

Smart advice for moms of adolescents at the start of the school year.


By: Maressa Brown

When your child is a tween or a teen, there are unique challenges that come with back-to-school season -- usually related to that awkward transition to adolescence. But the best way to tackle parental anxiety and prevent problems down the road is by having an open conversation with your child, advises Jay Fitter, MFT, author of Respect Your Children: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting. “You can get kids and teens to talk to you by asking questions that can't be answered 'yes' or 'no,' by listening without interrupting, judging, or advising, and by then paraphrasing back what they said,” says Fitter. “When they're completely done talking, you can give an opinion or maybe offer a strategy or two.” Here, the top five issues to chat with your adolescent about -- and the best ways to address them.

1. Academics: Kids can get much more competitive as grades become more integral to their success. At the same time, distractions abound in adolescence (from parties and dating to TV and video games), notes Fitter. “As parents, it's important to explain to our children that even though they'll be presented with many fun alternatives to studying, academics will play a big part in shaping the rest of their life and career,” he says.

The most positive way to talk about this reality with your tween or teen: “Set expectations early on,” advises Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. “Not saying, ‘I expect you to get all As,’ but asking your child to think about how they want the school year to end. Get them thinking about the end result, and if they want certain grades, what do they have to do to get there? Start mapping it out together.”

2. Peer pressure: It can be unavoidable for most kids to get through middle and high school without feeling pressured at some point by their classmates. Thankfully, there are ways to discuss this ahead of time to help your child navigate a stressful situation. “Talk with your kids about the fact friends might push them to drink, use drugs, cheat on a test, steal, or even be a bully to someone else,” says Fitter. “Remind your tween or teen that if it's an activity or behavior they don't want to do, or goes against what your family believes, they should say ‘no’ and, if necessary, walk away from the situation.”

You can even come up with a prevention plan or strategy for various scenarios ahead of time. “For example, tell them they can call you if they're at a party with no safe ride to take them home,” recommends Fitter.

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3. Rules vs. independence: Adolescents are notorious for testing their parents’ boundaries as they try to figure out who they are. But because they’re still kids, they still need rules and boundaries, explains Fitter. “Talk about your expectations and rules, so they don't just think you're being mean or strict for no reason,” he says. “They may not ask for them or even like them, but rules and boundaries create a sense of security and opportunity for growth. When you give kids rules, make sure they know the consequences if they break them. It's very important that you stick to the stated consequences.”

4. Dating: Whether your middle-schooler says she's “going out” with a boy in her class or your teen, who is now driving, has a steady boyfriend, you may need to set some ground rules about romantic relationships. “Moms and dads need to have a serious, honest self-examined look inside to discover where they stand on the issues of their kids dating,” says child and family psychotherapist Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond With Your Child. “Each one of us must not fear taking a clear stand with our kids on our expectations of what we believe is best for them.”

5. Bullying: While bullying can happen to kids of all ages, you may want to take special care to discuss the topic with your tween or teen. Walfish advises parents to teach self-advocating skills, encourage talking about feelings, teach kids how to ask for help, and teach appropriate ways to build self-esteem. “Advocate that the way to feel better about ourselves is in the kind way we treat others [and that] building ourselves up does not come out of putting others down,” she advises.

Have you managed to effectively discuss these topics with your tween or teen? What tips can you share with other parents?



Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/leezsnow

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