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Published on January 19, 2017

father with son driving the car

Parents: Try these Tips for “Tough Talks” with Teens

As a parent, you know there are about 100 things you’ll happily explain to your kids. And then there are those topics that no one wants to gather around the kitchen table and spell out. Sensitive topics – sex, drugs and alcohol, death and suicide – are daunting topics for every parent.

Avera Medical Group Pediatrics Mitchell physician Jesse Barondeau, MD, is the only board-certified adolescent medicine specialist in South Dakota. He’s well-versed in facing those sorts of conversations. He offers some guidance, as well as some compassion, for parents in those situations.

“I found my way into my subspecialty because those conversations with teenage patients and their families were more thought-provoking,” Barondeau said. “More often than not, I found these interactions reassuring. If parents focus on setting up successful kids for a good future, they can face tough talks.”

Pediatricians like Barondeau see themselves as allies to mom and dad. He sometimes meets with parents separately from their children, too, and said that if you’re worried about a conversational topic, it’s best to explore it.

“If we as doctors or parents do not talk to children, especially about sex, they will go to find the answers either from peers or from online sources,” Barondeau said. “It is better to have this conversation than to just worry too much about it being awkward and leaving them to fend for themselves.”

Barondeau reminds parents that kids’ brains are still developing, and in some cases that development continues until age 25. He does offer a great tip for getting tough talks started.

“The in-the-car conversation is often a good place for it, because there’s a little less eye-contact and there’s a privacy that goes with it as well,” he said. “I remind parents that talking about these things does not mean your son or daughter is going to go out and do them. So do your best and be brave – talk to your kids.”

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