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Keep the lines of communication open

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Sometimes it feels like the hardest thing to do is talk to your child. You may notice a change in their behavior, the way they react to something you say, their normal routine has changed or you sense that something is just different. This is normal, but should not be ignored. Our school works hard to build relationships with our students, but the most important support is family. If you sense that something is just not right, ask questions. If you child is unable to put into words what they are feeling, don't get discouraged, try a different approach. If that doesn't work, reach out for help. Children do not come with manuals, but you are not the first nor will you be the last to encounter a moody teenager or come across an issue you know nothing about.  Here is some information from Canadian Paediatricians at www.caringforkds.cps.ca 

Why healthy communication is important

As your teen moves toward adulthood, it's normal and natural for them to put distance between themselves and family. But it is more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open. If your teen feels they can talk to you, then they know you will listen and consider their views, and chances are you have and will continue to have a healthy relationship. By encouraging open and honest conversation you teen is more likely to come to you for the important stuff like relationships, school, sex, drugs -- rather than turning to friends for help or guidance or feeling alone.

  • Talk with your teen about their interests (music, sports, hobbies, plans for the weekend, future goals). Show interest. For example, if your teen is interested in theatre and you prefer sports, have an open-mind and explore theatre with them.
  • Schedule family time. All teens need to feel that they're a valued member of the family. Part of that will come from setting aside family time to do regular activities together, such as going to the movies, going for a hike, or skating. Family meals are an excellent way to connect with each other and talk about the things that happened during the day. Research also shows that having at least one family meal a day can prevent your teen from experimenting with risky health behaviour. Spending time as a family will help you know your teen as he grows and develops.
  • Listen. Teens want their parents to listen to their stories, concerns, and feelings with patience, understanding, and acceptance. Your teen needs to believe he can share problems and issues and know that you will support them. It's also a good idea to repeat their words when discussing what your teen tells you so that they know you understand.
  • Be prepared and willing to discuss the things they want to talk about. Think about the things your teen might want to talk about (relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol) so that you are ready when they come to you with difficult questions or ideas.
  • Treat your teen with respect and don't dismiss their feeling or opinions. Find ways to discuss and acknowledge your differences without judging. Listen to your teen's point of view with an open mind. Active listening will help your teen feel important, know that you take their concerns seriously, and will strengthen your relationship. As teens grow they also develop real expertise in things. Try to recognize your teen's knowledge and learn from them too. 
  • Be trustworthy. Don't make fun of your teen, or share their personal stories with others. Respecting your teen's desire for privacy is important. If you do, they are more likely to talk about issues like violence, abuse, harassment, or severe mood problems.
  • Stay calm, and try not to get frustrated. Your questions and tone of voice might put your teen on the defensive.
  • Offer help. The challenge is to be involved without intruding and to let your teen know you are always available. Ask your teen if they would like some advice. Sometimes, teens are not interested in advice but just want to talk. Ask them how they think they should handle an issue they've brought up. This allows them to bounce ideas around, without you telling them what to do. 
  • Encourage your teen to take on age-appropriate chores and responsibilities that will prepare them for adulthood. For example, if your child doesn't learn how to make their lunch by 13-14, they are not going to suddenly start doing it right when they move out. Embrace opportunities for growth.
  • Avoid lectures. If your teen's stories spark a lecture from you, they will be less likely to share with you another time. Express your concerns, but know that it's normal for teens to experiment. Be upfront about rules and consequences.
  • Keep it short, and to the point. Teens generally won't stay focused for long conversations.,
  • Plan. Set aside regular time to catch up, or talk about issues your teen is facing. Another good place to talk with your teen is while traveling together in the car when you have a captive audience.
  • Don't rely on texting. While text messages can be a good way to keep in touch with your teen, try to have more important conversations in person, texting leaves too much room for misinterpretation, and texts can easily be ignored.
  • Step away. if a conversation becomes emotional or heated, it is probably a good idea to step away and come back to it when everyone has calmed down.
  • Be honest about your feelings. If you are, your teen may be more open with you

When should I call the doctor?

Change is normal in the teenage years, but drastic or dramatic changes in your teen's behaviour or routine may be cause for concern.

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • extreme weight gain or weight loss
  • sleep problems
  • significant irritability or ongoing problems with mood
  • sudden change in friends, or isolation
  • trouble at school, either with learning or behaviour
  • trouble with the law
  • overuse of electronic media like phones, social media
  • signs of drug or alcohol use

If your teen talks about suicide or harming themself, call your doctor or the suicide hotline 833-456-4566 or text to 45645

More information can be found on the cps website at caringforkids.cps.ca