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Five Things to Talk to Your Teens About

Today, one could talk to 100 parents about things to talk to teens about and probably receive 100 topics, all well-meaning and appropriate. Can we really reduce these topics down to just five?
Darrel Hammon, FamilyShare Modified: May 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm •  Published: May 15, 2014

Today, one could talk to 100 parents about things to talk to teens about and probably receive 100 topics, all well-meaning and appropriate. But there are five that seem to stand out that parents need to spend a bit more time on as their children grow up and especially when their children reach the teen ages: relationships, respect of self and others, learning, financial habits and values.

1. Relationships. Perhaps one of the most challenging topics to discuss with anyone, particularly teens, is relationships. Relationships come in several sizes —personal, friendships, professional, sexual, spiritual and emotional. How teens handle these relationships can boost or damage oneself, sometimes over time or instantaneously.

While some people believe they are free to do whatever they want in relationships, a simple decision to lower personal standards or do things you wouldn’t normally do can dictate a destructive path you never would have chosen. Relationships can help create happiness in your life or snuff out any happiness that might exist. While parents have had many experiences with relationships, their experiences sometimes don’t matter to their teens. On the other hand, if teens would listen to their parents and others, their lives might be much easier. Often, though, teens must learn the hard way. But we know that teaching teens to develop healthy and uplifting relationships will create and establish more wholesome and solid relationships.

2. Respect of self and others. This is a topic that parents should begin teaching their children from a very young age. Granted, teaching respect of self and others is layered differently when your youngster is six rather than 13 or 14 or even older. In his book, "Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes," Gordon B. Hinckley, a highly respected religious leader, wrote, “Respect for self is the beginning of cultivating virtue in men and women.”

Part of respecting oneself and others also hinges on understanding that you are the puppeteer of your own life. Letting people take advantage of you will not help you grow and progress. Part of any parental conversation has to hinge on helping teens understand who they are and why and that differences in others are mere differences. Seeing people for who they are and not being judgmental about them can enhance respect for self and for others.

3. Learning. Very few things are more important than helping your teens understand that learning, not just education, is important. As young people enter their teens, the questions emerge from all sides: What are you going to do when you grow up? Where are you going to college? What will you be studying? And a host of others. During the teen years is the time to explore options. Many junior and high schools are connecting with local community colleges and universities to develop “pathways,” a year-by-year plan to help young people become better prepared for when they enter college.

Parents should encourage their teens to take advantage of field trips to colleges and businesses, volunteering assignments, internships, mentoring, and other opportunities to test the field. People who obtained postsecondary education make more money, live fuller and even longer lives and possess a sense of growth and personal awareness. Learning does not stop at high school graduation. Rather, it is a lifetime pursuit.

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