1.Know yourself. What are your expectations, your hopes, and your fears about your teenager’s sexual and romantic development? You’ll have far more control over yourself and your interactions if you have a full understanding of these things.
2. It’s not about you. Your teenager is, in fact, discovering sex for the first time. They don’t want to hear about you and your sex life or your path to discovering sex. They want to talk about their current exciting, overwhelming path. So let them! That’s how you’ll get to know your teenager – and that’s now one of the primary goals of your parenting. (If your teenager directly asks you about your own experiences, well, that’s a different matter for another time.)
3. Stop talking! As the parent of a teenager, you are in the business of trying to get to know your teenager, not to give information. If you’re talking, you can’t hear anything your teenager is trying to tell you.
4. Start listening! Stop talking. Start listening. They’re different things, really. Far too many parents remember to stop talking, but they haven’t learned how to really listen. Remember what business you’re in? And that can’t happen if you don’t really, really listen.
5. You only get one question. You’d better make it a good one that can’t be answered with a yes or a no. Feel free to spend some time mulling over it. You can ask it when you’re sure it’s a good one.
6. Do something else. Anything else. Many teenagers, especially boys, will have an easier time talking about sexuality and romance if you’re doing something “side by side” like driving, walking, or playing a game rather than sitting and looking at each other.
7. Pleasure and pain. You have to talk about both. If you don’t acknowledge the pleasure associated with sexuality, you’re teenager will think you’re completely out of touch. And so you will be completely out of touch.
8. Be cool like a cucumber. It is only when you manage to have a calm, loving demeanor that your teenager will feel comfortable talking with you. Avoid shutting your teenager down by being angry, reactive, or opinionated at all costs! Because you’re in the business of getting to know your teenager. The only way to do that is if your teenager keeps talking.
9. Bring it on! Your teenagers have tough questions. Some of them quite specific and technical. If you’re able to answer these questions with honesty, humor, and no judgment, your teenager will feel much more at home coming to you with increasingly difficult emotional decisions.
10. Never surrender. There may be times you feel like quitting. Like the millionth time when you’ve tried to have an actual conversation with your teenager – about anything, much less sex! – and your teenager has once again completely avoided eye contact and has not even acknowledged your existence. But you can’t quit. You’re still doing good by being continually present, so keep going. Trust me.
Wow – what a great list of how to ‘gut it out’! I find your blog interesting and helpful in talking to parents about their kids and their relationships with their kids. But, my kid is all grown up and it is too late to fix anything I might have done wrong (I’m not too worried about it – my kid is a pretty fabulous adult). BUT – if I had this list when my kid was a pre-adolescent and teen – I would have done a much better job of communicating and being available for communication. Thanks for all your work in this field, Dr. Rayne!
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