BUILD UP A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP
A close relationship isn’t something you build, just like that, over the course of an afternoon on the sofa. It’s more about building confidence and trust over time and about accepting the relationship on the young person’s terms. A lot of parents feel that their teenagers are shutting them out of their lives, but that’s not actually the case. Parents are just as important as they ever were.
The best way to win your teenager’s confidence is to show them that you care, that you’re interested in what they think and what they’re going through. You can talk about your own experiences, but you don’t have to go into detail. It shows that you know what it can be like and that you understand.
A teenager will listen to an adult who knows something and is happy to talk about it. It’s as simple as that. They need the support that comes from the safety and security that an adult can provide and which they, themselves, lack.
Bengt Grandelius, Reg. Psychologist and family therapist
TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING
An important base for a close relationship is being able to discuss both the big and small things in life. Whether it’s how their day went at school, what your child thinks about something, or how their friends are doing. Talking openly shows that you’re interested. If you make it a habit to discuss things, it will make talking about alcohol and other potentially sensitive subjects – such as feelings, sex or other drugs – a lot easier.
TELL THEM WHY YOU’RE WORRIED
Simply forbidding things and telling children that they’re not allowed to do something is not an effective approach. If they’re going to listen to what you say, they need to understand why you’re saying it. Explain why you’re worried, how it feels to be a parent, and what you’re afraid of. At the same time, knowing that boundaries exist and where they lie is obviously important to your child, and reassuring too.
Try not to make a big thing of your teenager’s attitude towards alcohol, or to worry yourself sick about it. Talk a bit about it from time to time and show them that you understand what it’s like when their friends are pushing them to try it, for example. That’ll help your child to talk about their own experiences. And don’t assume that all young people, or your particular teenager, drink. But if you are worried, air your concerns together with your teenager, rather than launching some kind of cross-examination – all that will do is create a distance between you. And trust that your teenager will listen to your concerns.
My parents don't talk to me about alcohol very much. The only thing they've said is, "Of course, you know it's wrong."
Johanna, aged 15, Umeå
REASSURE THEM THAT IT’S OK TO TELL YOU THINGS
It’s important that your teenager understands that you love them and want to be there for them, whatever happens. Children need to feel that they can be honest without their parents getting angry or throwing a fit. This might sound obvious, but it can actually be one of the hardest things about being a teenager’s parent. On the one hand, you’re worried about what might happen and really would prefer not to hear about drunken parties. On the other hand, you’d probably like to know what’s going on in your child’s life. But you need to be prepared to handle the truth and your child needs to feel that they did the right thing by telling you.
WHEN YOU HEAR THINGS YOU’D RATHER NOT HEAR
When your teenager tells you what’s happening, some of the things you find out about might be things you’d rather they hadn’t experienced. Sit down with your child and tell them how worried you are. Try to stay calm and firm, so your child knows where you stand. Sometimes, that’s not going to be possible, and it’s OK to get upset for a little while. But even if you don’t always manage to stay calm, your child will understand that you care.