33 Tips for Communicating with Your Teen

Very helpful tips for anyone communicating with a teenager:

Source: Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs

  1. Listen instead of lecturing. Lecturing just doesn’t work.
  2. Try not to judge. If your teen feels judged, he or she won’t approach you to tell you about serious problems.
  3. Encourage your teen to develop his or her own solutions to problems. You can make suggestions, but often you need to step back and allow your teen to work things out. Do intervene if the situation is unsafe.
  4. Yelling and intimidation may produce short-term compliance, but in the long run, they are ineffective and unkind strategies.
  5. Do something different if you have been using the same old scripts that haven’t worked before.
  6. Say something nice.
  7. Keep it short.
  8. Ask questions, but don’t “grill” your child.
  9. Talk while you are doing something together (like washing dishes or driving to activities). This way your teen doesn’t feel like the spotlight is on him or her.
  10. Create private times your child can count on, like a weekly trip to the ice cream store or a daily walk. If you have younger kids, put them to bed earlier so your teen can have some “adult” time with you.
  11. Turn off the TV, or at least watch some programs together and discuss them. TV can create some excellent teachable moments.
  12. Take turns talking – don’t monopolize the conversation.
  13. Ask your teen’s opinion – then be careful that what you consider. “Discussion” doesn’t sound like criticism to your teen.
  14. Ask for your teen’s help and expertise (for example, with using your computer on a project).
  15. Praise your teen in front of others, but not to the point of embarrassment (“Chris really helped me today when my computer wasn’t working properly. I had no idea she had such great skills!”).
  16. Be honest. If you don’t want to reveal certain information (such as details of your sex life when you were a teen), just say, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”
  17. Don’t pry. You need enough information to help your teen stay safe, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to know everything. Trust me, you don’t want to know everything!
  18. Don’t make promises unless you plan to keep them.
  19. Share some of your own thoughts and experiences, but don’t overwhelm your child with adult problems and worries. Find an adult you can confide in, and be wary of putting too much on your teen’s shoulders.
  20. Make an honest evaluation of the percentage of your communication with your teen that is positive, negative, or neutral. Try to increase the positive things you say and decrease the negative.
  21. Watch the tone of your voice. Teens tend to be hyper-sensitive, even if they don’t show it. Take a few minutes to calm down, if necessary.
  22. Pay attention to your teen’s reactions. If he or she seems “tuned out,” stop talking. Allow time for your teen to talk, or pick up the conversation later when he or she is more receptive.
  23. Don’t try to have a conversation with a teen who is drunk or high.
  24. Don’t try to have a conversation when you are drunk or high.
  25. Address the behavior, not the person. There is a world of difference between “It upsets me when you leave dirty dishes all over the house, and I come home to a mess,” versus “You are a slob, and you never think of anyone but yourself!”
  26. Manage your moods. It’s not okay to take your anger or depression out on your teen, especially if you don’t want the same in return.
  27. Learn how your teen communicates with technology (cell phones, instant messaging, Facebook or MySpace, and text messaging). In addition to learning about technology to keep your teen safe, you can use these tools to enhance parent-teen communication by texting a message of encouragement or praising something your teen has posted.
  28. Stay in touch with your teen, but not obsessively. No high school senior needs six calls a day from Mom. Educate yourself about keeping your teen safe, then discuss phone and internet communication expectations for both you and your teen.
  29. Encourage your teen to take on more adult-like responsibilities as he or she gets older, and gradually reduce your role from boss to coach.
  30. Discuss sensitive issues in a not-too-personal way. For example, have a conversation about contraception based on a movie scene you watched together, not by prying about your teen’s sex life. If you are too intrusive, your teen will most likely avoid the conversation or be dishonest. On the other hand, if you think your teen is in danger or is endangering others, be direct. Get help from a trusted person (a friend or a professional) if you need to plan a confrontation about a difficult issue.
  31. Use language that emphasizes that your family is a team.Tell positive stories about the past, and find some common interests that will engage even a teen in the stand-offish phase, such as looking at family pictures or working on a project that will benefit the teen (like painting his or her bedroom or repairing an old vehicle for the teen’s use).
  32. If, despite your best efforts, there is a total breakdown in communication that lasts more than a short while, or if your teen is endangering himself or herself or anyone else, it is time for family counseling. Don’t be too proud to get help for the whole family.
  33. Remember to enjoy your teen, even when he or she is difficult. Don’t be afraid to say “I love you” and to give hugs if your teen is comfortable with physical affection.

A rant about parental abandonment

First, let me make a distinction between people who were not in their child’s life because of circumstances. Adoption, for instance, too often involves a young, unsupported woman (or a woman who perceives she is unsupported) who relinquishes a child because she feels her back is to the wall.

The parental abandonment I’m talking about is a parent who invested in their child’s life but decided staying was too hard.  So they checked out completely. Disappeared with no warning or explanation.

When I started this blog I never planned to say much about my personal life. This parental abandonment experience angers me enough I feel I have to say something. Last August the father of my 14-year-old son decided to stop seeing him, to stop visitation. He had been seeing him every second weekend, holidays and summer vacations for over 13 years. They fought because my son does not get on well with my ex’s wife or her children and his father feels he is disrespectful to his wife. His father demanded an apology. But our son’s attempts to reach his dad* (clarification. He may not have apologized but he did phone his dad a number of times to talk things out and his calls were not returned. I do not know what he has told his dad) have gone unanswered. This week will mark five months since his dad walked out of his life.

On the surface it looked like my son was taking things well. Stellar marks in school, supportive friends, a teacher backing him up. But we didn’t think his father would keep up the silent treatment for months.

The holidays were brutal. It wasn’t just the absence of my son’s father but his side of the family also reduced their contact or completely avoided our son. The customary Christmas card never arrived. No phone calls or well wishing. No Facebook messages. No e-mails.  I phoned the paternal grandparents and they got together with my son and gave him Christmas gifts. But it looks like the onus is on me to maintain their contact with their grandchild.

These are people who profess to care about family and community. But while they have spoken to my son’s father, they appear to be standing beside their son as he abandons his only child, their first grandson. I don’t get it.

What my son needs is people rallying around him, reminding him that this situation is not his fault. He is a kind, intelligent, sensitive soul. He doesn’t deserve to feel he is not worth knowing, not worth working things out with, not worth loving. I don’t understand why his father is doing this. I can’t wrap my mind around how he would not be conscious of the damage he is inflicting. I want to scream at him, shake him. We don’t seem to be able to carry on a conversation. I know from painful experience there is no point in talking things out with my son’s father.

You can’t be an ambivalent parent. When you’re a parent you are either 100 per cent in or you are out. It takes courage to work things out with a teenager. It takes courage to be there through good times and bad. I know a dad who travels to another city every second weekend (hours away) to see his children. That dad is my hero. I have a dark place in my heart for people who consciously abandon their children. I don’t know how they sleep at night.

I am grateful to my family and friends for being there and for listening.

My son has support from a school guidance counsellor. I went to the local CLSC seeking counselling for me and advice on possible options. I met with a social intake worker and my request is in the system. But two weeks later I am still waiting.

Today my son did something out of character and wrong, something I would never expect him to do. I think the stress is getting to him.

I will rally the troops and get my son the help he needs. That’s all I can do.

Empress “contest” – smoke and mirrors?

I know some borough politicos see the Empress building as a white elephant. But I was unprepared for the cynicism and hostility I witnessed at last night’s Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council meeting.

Last August the borough announced it was reclaiming management of the old Empress/Cinema V building from the Empress Cultural Centre Corporation board and announced that a “contest” of sorts would be held to determine who should redevelop the building, which, with the exception of one small section (and the part that used to house Head & Hands), has sat empty for many years even though a succession of community group volunteers has tried since 1999 to resurrect the building.

Two borough councillors – Côte-des-Neiges city councillor Helen Fotopulos and Darlington district’s Lionel Perez were absent yesterday. Mayor Michael Applebaum, Snowdon city councillor Marvin Rotrand, Loyola City councillor Susan Clarke and NDG district’s Peter McQueen, the only non-Union Montréal city councillor (he represents Projet Montréal and the Empress building is in his district) were on hand when borough director Stéphane Plante explained the criteria for the borough’s “public call for proposals” process.

  • On January 19 ads for the borough’s call for proposals (tenders) will appear in La Presse, Le Devoir and the Montreal Gazette. (Details may also be found on the borough’s Web site )
  • Non-profit groups will have until May 11 to prepare their bids.
  • For $50 non-profit groups can buy a booklet explaining the process.
  • A seven-member jury will evaluate the projects and make recommendations to the borough. Borough councillors will choose one project – that is if they are convinced there’s a project out there that will be financially viabile (i.e. no money from the city, ever)  in the long term.
  • The borough’s sports, recreation and culture director chose the jury members who include three representatives from the borough, one from City Centre and three citizens (two of whom live in NDG).
  • Evaluation criteria include: the project’s environment sustainability features, viability in terms of financing, viability in terms of cultural use of the building and understanding of the milieu.
  • Proposals are welcome from non-profit groups of any size from anywhere in the city and they are welcome to partner with developers/ the private sector.
  • A very detailed market research study is required.
  • There appear to be strict rules regarding communication with borough officials or with jury members.
  • Those proposing projects will be encouraged to visit the building to see its condition for themselves.

Just before the vote took place on a motion to approve the criteria, Peter McQueen voiced concerns about the wording  and said he couldn’t vote for it.

In response Mayor Applebaum said he would withdraw the motion entirely and leave it up to McQueen to find a group with a viable project (I thought he said by June 2012 but maybe he said June 2013. Within a limited time frame in any case). “If you can’t find one then the building is going up for sale,” Applebaum said.

McQueen was also subjected to verbal attacks by Marvin Rotrand, including a suggestion that McQueen “not lobby for one group or proposed plan from his district.”

Both Applebaum and Rotrand made it clear they’ve never been big fans of revitalizing the building but nonetheless they didn’t kill the project. “We did not believe in this project and when we were elected, we didn’t end it,” said Applebaum. “The borough hasn’t pulled the plug,” said Rotrand. “There was a great hope that somebody would prove the city wrong. I hope somebody will prove me wrong,” said Rotrand, adding that he doubts this will happen.

In the end McQueen voted for the motion but he wasn’t able to get any changes to the supposedly  “boilerplate” wording of the bid criteria.

My take:

I have mixed feelings  I think if any group can convince Applebaum et al of the worthiness of a project they won’t have too much trouble.


Some citizens and activists voiced a number of valid concerns about this “contest.”( * CLARIFICATION: Two representatives from the Empress Cultural Centre Corp., Pascal Beaudoin and Sharon Leslie, did get an opportunity to ask questions during the question period.) It’s hard to know how groups will find financing when they don’t own the building and they’re looking for money for a project that has no guarantee of being approved. How many non-profit groups can take on the renovation of a building that has suffered water and fire damage? The market study required is allegedly a lot more detailed than what’s typically asked for in the city’s call for tender process. How many non-profit groups have the budget or the connections to take on such a project? The city hired SNC-Lavalin to prepare an engineering study (“analyse” in French. The term used in engineering is “building condition assessment” ) on the building’s condition but will not release the study to the public or groups bidding on the project. Yesterday Applebaum stated that the study is only available for use by the City of Montreal and non-profits will have to arrange their own property evaluations. This is disturbing, especially considering Mayor Applebaum backed the city’s open data project. Public money funded that SNC-Lavalin study. It should be made available to the public.

NDG is a community known for its commitment to citizen participation. The Benny Farm Task Force was one example. By not including the NDG community in this process of choosing a project, the borough is alienating many people who put hours of their lives into revitalizing the Empress. It’s as though this human capital of hundreds of volunteers is being dismissed as worthless, simply because of politics. Some politicians would give their eye teeth to see such citizen engagement in their own borough. But it’s not appreciated here.

I feel that by not renovating the building first the borough is setting up non-profit groups for failure. I wonder about the jury selection, since at least one citizen member, Marie-Claude Savard, appears to have close ties with the borough already (she recently hosted a borough-sponsored gala). I wonder if this “contest” is smoke and mirrors. I will be very surprised if any project gets a green light.

I was disgusted by what I heard last night. I feel there is a lack of genuine political goodwill.