Family Matters: Recalling the spirit of Billy, and wishing goodwill to all

Dr. Larry Larsen

Dear Doctor,

Our son, a sophomore in high school, has been doing a few things that have surprised us. He is smart, athletic, and has friends.

His grades are beginning to drop. He is challenging us some, but not bad so far.

We want to have some serious conversations with him. Any help with how to do it would be appreciated. Thanks.

— Worried Mom and Dad

Dear worried,

Having such conversations with a teen need not be like a death march.

The key word is “respect.”

All teens are not alike any more than parents, but respect goes a long way in making a point without resistance and hostility.

If you come on as authoritarian and punitive your conversation is over. Be prepared to listen. Be honest about what you have noticed ad avoid the word “you.” “You have been ---.” Make it an “I” or “we” talk. Use non charged words such as “concerned” and “want to be helpful.” If he becomes hostile, be patient and ask his opinion. “What do you think would help?” etc.

Do not rush. Avoid laying down the law. “We have had about enough” will shut you out of any information.

Above all do not become defensive yourself. When he says, “You guys always think that” do not attempt an argument to the contrary.

Share your positive feelings about him in a helpful way. The message of being loved only when you are perfect can so easily be a part of the conversation.

If things become too charged, stop and plan another time to chat. You get the idea.

I only wish I had read this column years ago when our son was a sophomore in high school!

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