Recently I’ve been contemplating a big life change, which requires discussion and, hopefully, collusion and enthusiastic participation of my teenage daughter! Except...
I have broached the subject with her in careful increments, like one might feed a baby, spoon by spoon, accompanied by the distracting sound and motion of a choo choo train. But unfortunately, impending change for her feels more like a locomotive.
It seems I am failing when trying to bring up big, important, scary issues with my teen daughter in small, dismissive, happy ways. And so I sought professional wisdom on the matter, which is to say I googled “How to tell your teenager…” And Autofill supplied the rest:
After investigating the various oh my gah topics one may need to discuss with one’s teenager, there appeared an agreement of advice:
- Don’t spring news on your teen. While they are certainly more able to process complex information than a younger child, they have probably been living with their current set of circumstances for a large percentage of their years. In the case of my daughter, I’m asking her to embrace something different from what she has known for 85% of her life. Give them warning that you need to discuss something of importance, and ask for their help in selecting a good time to sit together to tackle the issue.
- They don’t need to hear every detail. While it may be a tremendous relief to unburden yourself by sharing information with a confidante, remember that you are shifting that burden of information to your child. Try to simplify the message. It may already be difficult for them to hear what you’re saying, so limit your communication to the Need to Knows.
- Be honest. While it may push your agenda to sugarcoat the downside of change, it does nothing to instill confidence in your credibility. Be sympathetic to any and all inconvenience and uncertainty.
- Give your teen some control. Allow them to set the timeline of change, or give them other ways of expressing their involvement with what is about to happen.
- Allow change to evolve organically. As much as is in your control, don’t try to push the timeline, no matter how eager you are to move forward already! Change takes a period of acclimation.
- They have a right to their feelings. While it would be great if your teen was on board with your news, you should take pride in producing a well-formed person with experiences and opinions of their own to apply to this new situation. Embrace the fact they’re not afraid to verbalize their own dissenting opinion. Often. And well.
- Have integrity. Before sitting with your teenager to give them any news at all, make sure that news is actually worthy of the both of you. If you make good choices based on careful contemplation of everyone involved, the authenticity of your decision making process will yield better overall, eventual, acceptance.