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Nothing is as challenging or rewarding as parenthood. One of the biggest challenges is trying to understand your kids, especially as they grow into teenagers and stop telling you every thought that crosses their mind. How can you meet all of their emotional and physical needs when the most they'll tell you about their school day is that it was "fine"?
Think back to your own teenage years, and be aware of how culture has changed and shifted since then when considering what topics your teen may have questions about.
Here are seven unspoken questions your children may have and how to answer them:
1. Do you even know what you're doing?
Until you became a parent yourself, you probably never realized how much guesswork goes into parenting. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. So when you make mistakes along the way, acknowledge your imperfection to your children. Being able to admit your humanity will make you more relatable to your children, and they may realize they have more in common with you than they thought.
2. Do you remember what it's like to be a kid?
Sometimes, your kids just want to know if you understand what they're going through. After all, they've only seen you as a mature, well-adjusted adult. Tell them about your teenage years. Be honest about what mistakes you made when you were young and invite them to be honest themselves. When you share personal stories, you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Your kids might feel more comfortable in sharing their own embarrassing stories and asking awkward questions if you are willing to share yours.
3. Are curfews actually important?
You haven't experienced parenting a teenager until you've had your first curfew discussion (a.k.a. argument). This step acknowledges your teen's growing independence and your willingness to allow them to make their own decisions. Let your teenager know that setting a curfew doesn't mean you don't trust them, but it's a boundary you set for their safety.
Healthline.com suggests a curfew of 8 or 9 p.m. for school nights, and 10 p.m. for weekends until at least age 16. In addition to their safety, these curfew times allow pre-teens and teenagers to get sufficient sleep for their health and well-being.
A common aspect of growing up is how normalized teenage drinking is. Your teens might wonder if it's okay to try alcohol "just once" or what they should do if they find out their friends are drinking. They might not realize the severe penalties that await teens who even possess alcohol, let alone drink it.
Before having this particular talk with your son or daughter, consider consulting the Alcohol Policy Information System to find out what the laws and repercussions in surrounding underage drinking are in your area. In general, the penalties could include a combination of fines, the termination of your teen's license and jail time.
5. Why can't I just try drugs just once?
Letting your son or daughter know the long-term consequences that stem from drug addiction is a critical parent-child conversation you'll want to have early in their teenage years, if not sooner. Drugfree.org points out, "References to drugs and alcohol appear in headlines, sitcoms, movies and advertisements. Take advantage of these opportunities to start a conversation with your child." News stories, social media and real-life situations can all present you with an opportunity to address this vital topic.
6. Why can't I make my own rules?
Your teen may balk at what they believe are your efforts to control their lives. "It is normal for children to test our limits — both in words and actions," parent educator and author Nancy Samalin told familyeducation.com. "The question is, how can parents walk the tricky line between allowing their children to express their feelings while still asserting their authority as parents, and setting necessary limits."
Don't feel bad about saying "no" when the situation calls for it, but also you may allow your teen to suffer their decisions from time to time as well. Some of the greatest lessons are learned when rules are broken.
7. What's the big deal about sex?
Sex is commonly found in mainstream media, and your teen may start to wonder why their parents and teachers are so worried about whether they're sexually active. Don't leave it up to them to find answers about sex on their own. They'll inevitably get their information from a source you don't agree with. It's an awkward conversation, but a necessary one if you want to make sure your teen is making wise decisions about their body.
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