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Are your conversations hurting or healing your teens?

by Dr. Sandy Gluckman | Contributor

I am sure that the tragedies in Paris, San Bernardino, and other parts of the world have been weighing heavily on all of our hearts and minds. Closer to home there are the tragic shootings that fill our TV screens. It is sad how real-life horror stories get the public’s attention far quicker than good news.

As adults, we have the ability not to let these negative events induce fear in us or overtake our thoughts. We can find a way to put this into some perspective and get on with our lives.

But can our teens do the same?  Or are these violent images and events of the day playing havoc with their thoughts and emotions? I believe that the media can affect the vulnerable brains of teens in negative ways, causing them to see the world with less passion and positivity than we, as parents, would want for them.

Moms and Dads, it is important to realize that because of the volatile world we live in, you need to focus, more than ever before, on having conversations with your teens about inspirational, good news.

The conversations you have with your children actually have the power to heal or hurt them. Negative thoughts cause bad chemistry to be spurting through your child’s body, which can have a negative effect on his behavior and communication. The opposite is also true. Positive thoughts stimulate good chemistry, giving your teen’s brain the ability to think and behave in constructive ways. In the future, the way in which your child’s brain is wired will influence the decisions he makes about life and the values he practices.

Here are two very powerful tools to use when starting conversations with your teens:

Share Healing Stories

A great story has the power to cause us to shed tears of joy, to feel invigorated, or to motivate us to reach for the stars.

I would highly recommend that you deliberately begin to look for an inspiring story every day. Make it a way of life to listen for happy, heroic stories your family, friends, or colleagues may tell you. Scour the newspaper, Google, or YouTube looking for events that inspire you.

Share these stories with your teens—at the dinner table or in the car travelling home from school. And remember—telling the story will boost your own chemistry too!

Ask Healing Questions

Asking questions about your teen’s point of view opens up a dialogue and indicates that you are interested in what he has to say. It’s important when using this technique that you have an open mind and express how much you value your teen’s viewpoint. He will know if you are faking it!

Be sure to ask these questions in a casual way so that they are not perceived to be an interrogation. It is also a great idea for you to openly share your own answers to these questions.

Here are just a few ideas to spark your imagination: 

When you look back on the last month, what are you most proud of?

What is your favorite trait in other people? 

What do you think others like best about you?

What are the two biggest lessons you learned this week/month/year?

Do you have a dream for yourself that you think about a lot?  

The saying goes, “We are what we eat.”  I agree. I also know that we are what we think. It is up to us, as parents, to play a significant role in what thoughts are running through our children’s heads and being wired into their brains.

Dr. Sandy Gluckman is a behavior and health specialist working with parents whose children have learning and behavior challenges. 


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