A Conversation With Your Teens

Written By:  Monica Ippolito, ACS Clinical Intern, Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Community Counseling Programs

If any parents of teenagers happen to be of Generation X, then you can reminisce with me about the cartoons we grew up watching. Cartoons like G.I. Joe, She-Ra, He-Man, The Care Bears, The Smurfs, and Inspector Gadget all had a lesson or morals for us to learn. We even had after school specials that would show real life situations and how we should deal with them. Today it is more difficult to find the same kind of innocence in the media that will teach a lesson. Today, whenever your teenager would like to learn about anything they just ask, Siri, CORTANA,  ALEXA, or Google. It’s not a bad thing to use our electronics to find the answers, because they can all be most helpful to us. At the same time most parents seem to believe that their teenagers just know how to behave, act or think in certain situations. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Teenagers need your guidance. Even when you think that they are not listening to you, it turns out that they are.

Recently, I have come across two very powerful televisions shows that I feel are a great place to start a conversation with your teenager. The first show is ABCs “American Crime.”  This program tackles current trending topics in American society, and airs Wednesday nights at 10 pm. The current season (season 2) highlights an alleged sexual assault between two boys, that eventually leads to school violence. I feel that this show is relatable to what is really going on in American high schools. Exemplifying vignettes about the bullying that goes on shows how life is at school for many teenagers. In the most recent episode, interviews of real young people and adults who have lived through bullying and school violence were featured after each commercial break.  It was very powerful to hear their stories.

The second television show that I am looking forward to watching is on the SyFy channel. This show is called “The Internet Ruined My Life.” It will start airing on Wednesday’s at 10 pm, and takes a look at how a post, tweet, email, or text can sometimes ruin someone’s life.  This show should be interesting to parents and families because it highlights the newest form of bullying: cyberbullying. It is time we start talking about this and the damage it can cause.

Why should you watch these television shows?  They are a great way to open up conversations with your teenagers. You can watch together or separately, but either way talk about bullying and school violence. Ask things like:

  • What would you have done in that situation?
  • Do you think it’s right or wrong? Has this happened to you or anyone you know?
  • Do you and your friends know who to reach out to for help?
  • Do you that I am here to listen and help?

These are just a few questions that you can ask.  Do not, however, ask all of these questions at once or your teenager might be too overwhelmed or stressed to have an open conversation.  Also help teenagers understand that once they put something online, it lives there forever.  You don’t want them to have to explain to a possible job interviewer or college why it is up there; if they are lucky enough to get a chance explain it at all in these situations.

As adults, we need to stop thinking that bullying is a rite of passage.  When we were growing up and thought that everyone at school knew something about us, it didn’t get posted for everyone to see.  In the world that your teenagers live in, it is a reality that everyone in their high school, or everyone in the community, knows a possible rumor or story about them. This needs to change, and the only way to do that is to begin with a conversation with your teenager.