Tips for Talking to your Teen

Parenting Tips From Parent Coach Judy Reith

“My teenager has acne – how can I help without
making things worse?”

As a parent, it’s natural to want to be as helpful and supportive to your child whatever age they are, and whatever they are facing. When your child was younger, it was easier to make things better for them with a kiss and a plaster, but now they’re teenagers, it is harder to know how to help them when the pressures of adolescence are great.

There are so many different pressures. Some we will remember from our own teenage years. What you look like, who your mates are, how you’re getting on with your family, what you’re good at (or not) what’s happening to your body, whether anyone will fancy you, what career you might follow, and what’s happening on Facebook can pile on the pressure.

Suffering from acne is one of many pressures, but it is especially difficult to live with when your face is permanently on show; and even though many teens go through a spotty phase, moderate or severe acne can be soul destroying at a time feeling confident is already tough.

Striking up a conversation with your teen about a potentially embarrassing problem like acne is hard for parents who are only trying to help. It’s easy to think you have said the wrong thing especially if your teen storms off! However, parents have a lot of power and the ability to create or destroy communication with their teens.

Parents can be a great help to their teenager’s ability to feel good about themselves. But they can also get in the way of enabling their teen to cope with life’s ups and downs. Here’s some ideas which I hope will help you to find the right path through this tricky time for you and your teenager.

Starting a Conversation…

  1. Knowledge is a Wonderful Thing

    If you’re concerned about the extent or nature of your teen’s skin problems, do your own research or consult your GP about treatment, diet and lifestyle choices, so you have facts, not myths, ready when you talking to your teen.

  2. Build Up Your Relationship Anyway

    Parents say they don’t know how to start a conversation with their teen about their skin. Sometimes this feels hard if you’re not used to spending time and talking together anyway. Put some time into this most valuable relationship. Share a task, such as cooking a meal, clearing out a cupboard, going for a walk, washing the car – you choose. Tell them what you love and admire about them. You know the times when it’s easier to have a chat with your teen.

  3. Be Fed, Watered, Calm and With Time Available

    If you, or your teen, are tired, hungry, anxious, distracted or rushed, you won’t have the kind of conversation you want with your teen about their skin.

  4. Ups and Downs

    It’s normal for teenagers to be moody as adolescent hormones can make you feel up one minute and down the next. If your teen is withdrawn, anxious or depressed, it could be her acne, but it might be a range of other pressures causing, or contributing to her mood.

  5. Whose Problem is This?

    Who is upset about your teen’s skin? Is it you? Is it them? Is it both of you? If they’re upset, then you can help them best by being available and being willing to listen. Staying calm will help both of you. If you’re upset, but they don’t seem at all bothered, find the help you need to calm down before you try and talk to your teen.

Talking About Acne With Your Teen

  1. Listen To Learn

    What does it mean to listen?  Think about who you can talk to when you have a problem, or just want to talk something through?  Chances are, the kind of person you talk to will listen more than they talk.  They won’t judge you, or rush in with lots of suggestions or advice.  Good listeners also give you a sense they have time for you.  They don’t mind silences which give the speaker thinking time. They make you feel cared for.

  2. How Do You Feel?

    Simply asking your teenager how they’re feeling at the end of the day rather than what they have been doing can be a good place to start a conversation.   If they don’t name a feeling, you can have a guess at how they’re feeling…  “I guess it’s hard when your friends don’t’ have to go to the Doctor about their spots. I’m here if you want to talk about it. “.

  3. When Your Teen Talks To You

    If your teen starts to talk to you about their skin problems, (or anything else that ‘s worrying them) give them your best attention.  Stop what you’re doing, and sit down if you can. Sometimes, we don’t know how we really feel until we’ve had a chance to talk about something, so being interrupted, brushed off or given unasked for advice can really get in the way of your teenager communicating with you.

    Ask one question at a time and wait for the answer. Ask for their ideas first before jumping in with your own.  If you really can’t listen, then offer them another time when you could listen to them.

  4. Getting Medical Help

    Over the age of 16, your teen can choose to see the Doctor without you.  You may not know they have been to the Doctor. If you do know, you can help by offering to collect prescriptions – you can see what the dosage requirements are.  You can find out if there is anything else they need. Skin washing products can be expensive and offering to pay will help cash strapped teenagers.

    If you do accompany them to the doctor, encourage your teen to do the talking. Afterwards you can compliment them on how well they handled the Doctor’s questions and how proud you are of them for getting help with their acne with a GPs visit.

  5. Grumpy and Living Off Chips and Chocolate

    Chips and chocolate are delicious, and it’s important to understand that they are not causes of acne!  Nagging your child about their diet is likely to alienate you from each other. Instead, having a wide variety of good fresh food on offer will help your teen (and the rest of the family) to think better, and have more energy to get on with their busy lives.

One More Thing….

Take care of yourself! Parents often put their own needs last. Even eating properly or not getting enough sleep becomes less of a priority, let alone having a treat. Raising kids demands so much of us on every level and when we’re stressed and anxious, we are much more likely to say or do things we regret to the people we love the most. This is like running a marathon and not drinking any water. Find a way to take care of yourself every day.