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Friday, April 20, 2007

Five Conversations to Have with Your Teens

One of the most important things you can do is to take time to talk to your teen, says WebMD's Dr. Charlotte Grayson Mathis. And not just on the topics mentioned below—sit down every day with your teenager and keep up with what's going on in his or her life. Be open-minded, curious and avoid judgments that may backfire on you! Use these talking points to get the conversation started.

Dating and Sex

It's likely that you've already addressed this topic in some form in your child's preteen years. If you haven't, now's the time—and if you have, it's time for a refresher. Most importantly, give your teen the facts about anatomy, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, fertility, birth control, self-image, peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, rape and the emotional aspects of sexuality.

If you're uncomfortable with the subject, practice beforehand. You can use available opportunities to open the discussion about sex-related issues, such as a TV show or a book. Help your teen know that it's not cool to date just because everyone else is—dating is a responsibility and he or she should treat others with respect. Share your values and expectations with them and make sure they know that no means no.

Dating should be fun, not stressful, scary or threatening. If any of that happens, tell your teen they should talk to a trusted adult.

Smoking, Drinking and Drugs

The teen years are often your child's introduction to these deadly habits. You need to send a clear—and consistent—message to your teen that smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs are not tolerated. They may listen to their friends, but you're the most important influence in their lives. If you're clear, they'll hear you. Work hard to bolster your teen's self-esteem so he or she can resist the temptations and pressures to try drugs.

Creating a Healthy Body Image

Take the time to sit down and have a conversation with your teen to find out what she thinks of her body. If her thoughts seem unhealthy, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

To create a healthy atmosphere for your teen at home, you should always avoid talking negatively about weight and food. You can keep them on track by stocking your kitchen with healthy food choices and remember—they are growing, so they're always hungry. Lastly, don't forget to compliment their actions more than their appearance. Instilling these simple concepts will help your children grow up feeling confident and secure about who they are.


Now's the time to help your child develop the financial habits that will make or break them in the future. Make your teen responsible for his or her own money. Help them set a budget and track their income and expenditures so they can learn to save—for both short and long-term goals. It's also important to educate them on the wise use of credit and how to start investing.

Getting a Good Education

While the ultimate decision on career or jobs is up to your teen, you can have a tremendous influence on their choices. If you truly want your child to go to college, they usually want to go, too. Help them to choose the right course work in high school to prepare them for college.

You can do wonders for your children if you instill in them a great attitude and thirst for learning—make academics, not social life a priority.


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