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Parent Resources

Have You Talked With Your Teen Today?

This fact sheet is part of the Teen talk: A survival guide for parents of teenagers series.

Mother and daughter looking at cell phone and smilingJodi Dworkin, Associate Professor — Department of Family Social Science

Revised April 2016 by the author.

You play an important role in shaping your teenager’s behavior. Teens who say their parents warned them about drug use and set clear rules are less likely to use drugs. Parents’ and teenagers’ morals, future aspirations, and self-control are typically quite similar. Talking encourages family togetherness and increases the likelihood teens will share parents’ values.

What Teens Want to Talk About

Generally, teenagers are interested in the following conversations:

How to Talk with Your Teen

"All she wants to do is go out with her friends and spend time alone in her room," you may be thinking. "How can I talk with my teen?" Here are some tips.

How to Really Listen to Your Teen

Your messages to your teen may not be as clear as you think. To make sure you and your child are having the same conversation, communication should be interactive. Ask your teen what she wants to talk about. Teenagers often feel their parents aren’t listening and dominate conversations. Many parents believe they are talking to their kids about drugs; unfortunately, the majority of kids don’t remember these conversations. Parents need to be ready to talk when teens are, and not just when it is convenient for them.

Choose Your Battles

Research shows only about 1 in 15 families have serious conflict that is harmful to the parent-teenager relationship. Typically, parents and teenagers argue over chores, curfew, and appearance — issues that are really not that important. Parents need to choose their battles and decide what is worth fighting about. What would really happen if your child didn’t make his bed one morning? Wouldn't your energy be better directed towards issues like school, sex, drugs, or alcohol?

Resolve Conflicts Positively

One of your goals as a parent should be to solve conflicts with your teen in a positive way. Teens are more agreeable when they think you are considering their needs and when they are part of the resolution process. The experiences are also teaching teens problem solving skills they will use outside the family. Here are some tips for good problem solving and establishing ground rules:

Keep in mind that arguments are very common in families with teens. However, most studies show that teens love their parents and value these relationships.


Elkind, D. (1998). All grown up and no place to go: Teenagers in crisis. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

McNeely, C., & Blanchard, J. (2010). The teen years explained: A guide to healthy adolescent development. Center for Adolescent Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Schaefer, C. E., & DiGeronimo, T. F. (1999). How to talk to teens about really important things: Specific questions and answers and useful things to say. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Simpson, A. R. (2010). Raising teens and young adults. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Work-Life Center.

Steinberg, L. (2011). You and your adolescent: The essential guide for ages 10–25. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Walsh, D. (2014). Why do they act that way? A survival guide to the adolescent brain for you and your teen. New York: Atria Paperback.

Related resources

KidsHealthThe Nemours Foundation — KidsHealth provides information about health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years. As part of The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, KidsHealth also provides families with perspective, advice, and comfort about a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral issues that affect children and teens.

Talking with Kids About Tough IssuesChildren Now & Kaiser Family Foundation — A national initiative by to encourage parents to talk with their children earlier and more often about tough issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, alcohol, and drug abuse.

ParentFurtherSearch Institute — A website to help families strengthen relationships through shared activities.

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