how to improve communication

The challenges of raising a child or teen in 2014, are changing faster than ever before.  It’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed as they try to determine the best ways to keep their kids safe, while research continues to show that the best deterrent to risky behavior is parent’s involvement.  Many parents understand the importance of talking with their kids about making healthy choices, but may not know how to start the conversation.  Many parents report that when they attempted to discuss a difficult topic, the conversation did not play out how they hoped and it ended abruptly with no real understanding gained on their part, or their child’s. The following tips can help parents improve the quality of these conversations so both parties can benefit. The important thing to remember is that even if your child may act like they’re not listening or act like they don’t need your care and concern, the fact is they are listening and they need your love and support more than ever—so don’t give up.

First steps to improving communication with your child

  • Listen!  When you listen during good times, it will build trust so your child can talk to you when facing challenging situations. Listening seems like a simple skill, but it is priceless in letting your kids know you truly care.
  • Be respectful with your teen even when showing emotion or disciplining. Your child will learn to respect themselves and others when the relationship at home is built on mutual respect.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. Questions using “how”, “what” and “why”, will help you have more dialogue to build a meaningful conversation.
    Examples of open-ended questions:

    • “I’d love to hear more about how you worked out the issue with _________ .”
    • “What ideas do you have to solve ______ problem?”
    • “Tell me more about why you don’t want to ______.”
  • Share a meal together without any media distractions- turn off  TV, computers and phones and make time to sit down together as a family and discuss how the day went for everyone.


Build encouragement into your everyday routine

  • Tweens and teens are highly sensitive to the opinions of their peers and the more they believe in themselves, the more likely they are to stand up for their beliefs when confronted with a tough issue.
  • Challenge yourself to turn one critical or discouraging remark into an encouraging remark that communicates the same message, but builds self-esteem. It’s important to build on the child’s strengths and acknowledge their efforts towards improvement.
  • Value your teen for who they are and as they are. Make sure your message is clear that you love your child unconditionally and it is their behaviors or choices that you struggle with at times, not them as a person.


How you can learn more
FIRC offers  Active Parenting Now and Active Parenting of Teens workshops. Contact 970-455-0228 for information.

  • Developing mutual respect in your home, which acts as the foundation to any relationship
  • Taking a deeper look at communication and how it can be used to win your teens cooperation and teach responsibility and courage in a complex world
  • Exploring effective discipline that clearly communicates the behavior you expect to see and guides teens into learning how to make good choices independently
  • Learn how to actively reduce the risks of drugs, sexuality and violence within your family

Taking time to talk about marijuana

As a parent, being informed about marijuana may seem like an overwhelming task. Trying to understand the possible impacts on your kids and how to discuss marijuana with them may leave you feeling unsure of where to start.

As marijuana use becomes more mainstream, knowing the facts becomes more important than ever. While many people believe marijuana use may not be harmful, understanding the risks of use for your children is worthwhile. One fact that is clear, underage use of marijuana is extremely harmful to the developing brain and can have long term consequences on an adolescent. In addition, teens that start using marijuana before the age of 14 are four times more likely to become addicted by the time they are adults.  Today, marijuana dependence is the number one reason why youth in Colorado and the United States seek substance abuse treatment.

It’s important to know that data shows children begin to experiment with use between the ages of 13 and 14. As a parent, starting to have ongoing conversations around marijuana use should be done by 4th or 5th grade.

Teens care about what parents say. Remember, one of the key reasons teens choose not to use drugs is
because they know their parents don’t approve it. They are listening!

Here are some tips and techniques to start the conversation.

Express a ‘no use’ attitude. Children whose parents have a positive attitude toward marijuana use are five times more likely to use marijuana by 8th grade. Remember that not communicating your thoughts about use can be just as damaging. Tell them how you feel.

Set clear guidelines. Communicate about healthy behaviors and establish clear rules.  Provide negative and meaningful consequences for not meeting guidelines and provide encouragement and support for healthy behaviors.

Keep track of your child. Remain actively involved in your child’s life to get to know their friends and friend’s parents.

Teach and practice skills to refuse drug offers.  Role play social situations with your child and help them find the right words to refuse offers. Help them come up with alternatives to using drugs or alcohol. Let them know it is okay to walk away from someone, and if needed, to call you for a ride home.

Do not allow underage use of any kind in your home. Many parents believe allowing alcohol use in their home will help keep their kids safer. Research shows that teens that use alcohol at home are actually more likely to abuse alcohol when not at home. The same facts are true for marijuana use.

What you can say

  • What do you know about marijuana?
  • Do you know that marijuana can be harmful to your health?
  • Marijuana use is against the law for anyone under 21 years of age.
  • We want you to do well in school, be safe so we have a family rule against using drugs, including marijuana.

To learn more about marijuana use and the impacts on teen brains:

Other Resources
To learn more about legalization in Colorado:

Healthy Futures

Partnership for Drug Free Kids

taking time to talk about underage drinking

As a parent, you have to juggle a number of concerns and decide how to talk to your teen about each one. Underage drinking may not be the easiest topic to handle, but it’s more important than ever to talk to your teen about their choices. You want your teens to make the best decisions they can while still being safe and letting them know you care. However, data collected from Colorado students shows that approximately half of the state’s high school students and less than half of the state’s middle school students had a
conversation with their parents about alcohol in the past year.  Teens need their parents to start having the tough conversations with them.

While teens may drink less often than adults, when they do drink, they tend to have more than adults in one setting. This behavior, binge drinking, can lead to higher risk of alcohol poisoning and long term
consequences like DUI’s. Teens need guidance and support to help them make the best decisions they can.  The good news is, there is abundant evidence that no matter how much teenagers may appear uninterested in adult advice, they still view their parents as their biggest role models.

The important thing to remember is that even if your child may act like they’re not listening or act like they don’t need your care and concern, the fact is they are listening and they need your love and support more than ever.

Here are some tips and techniques to start the conversation.

Tips to Talk About Underage Drinking

Be a Role Model. If you drink, do so responsibly. Never drink and drive! Do not use alcohol as a way to cope with stress, depression or anger. Remember, our teens are always watching our actions.

Talk frequently and briefly about how you feel about underage drinking. Resist the temptation to lecture or threaten, but rather share your values.

Create open ended conversations that allow your teen to share how they think and feel about the issues being discussed.

Prepare yourself with facts and research before you have the conversation.

Remind your teens that you love and care about them and that you trust their judgment. Give them opportunities to demonstrate they can be responsible.

Use real world examples in the news, on TV or on media to discuss underage drinking.

Make it clear that drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking is unacceptable. Come up with a plan for your teen to call for a ride or call for permission to stay overnight if he or she or the driver has been drinking.

Don’t take it personally. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger.
Instead, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.



taking time to talk about suicide

The difficult topics to talk about with your kids are often the topics with the most dire outcomes. We hope to give you the courage, talking points and methods to take on the big conversations. As a parent, you want to give your child the most support possible, but when depression or other harmful behaviors arise with your child, its very difficult to know how to help. The important thing to remember is that even if your child may act like they’re not listening or act like they don’t need your care and concern, the fact is they are listening and they need your love and support more than ever.

Suicide and mental health have been brought into the forefront over the last few months in Summit County and nationwide. Recent events have proven that suicide prevention needs more attention and parents need more resources. At a recent Dialogue Over Dinner, a monthly discussion meeting for parents of adolescents, Dr. Casey Wolfington, Psy.D., covered the following information to help prevent  suicide and self-harm.

First steps you can take to protect your child from suicide

  • Take away access to fatal means: 82% of adolescent suicides used a parent’s firearm.
  • Communication: It may be uncomfortable, but find ways to have discussions about suicide and self-harm with your adolescent.
    • Ask open ended questions that lead to discussion
    • Be engaged in their life and check in with them often
    • Bring up situations in the news to gather their opinion
    • Don’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer

If a child is struggling, the following tips will help them open up to you

  • Use the child’s own words: “what I hear you saying is …”
  • Admit your helplessness: “I don’t know all the answers, but we will get through this together…”
  • Engage the child in problem solving: Help them understand the options to improve their situation
  • Do not allow your ego to take over: It’s not about you, it’s about supporting them.
  • NEVER: Get angry or punish
  • Normalize: Help them realize they’re not the only one feeling this way

How you can help

  • Provide a support system and sense of belonging
  • Focus on future goals and help them see the bigger picture
  • Constructive use of leisure time, help them stay busy and connected
  • Clinical or medical support

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
Mind Springs Health in Frisco: 970-668-3478
Ask to speak with the on-call Mental Health Counselor: 911

taking time to talk about cyber safety

As a parent, you are constantly teaching and modeling values and manners for your child to use in a variety of places including school, social settings and now online. Understanding the constantly changing virtual world is a daunting task, but by keeping communication open and helping your child make good choices, you can still impact their behavior.

Remember that you are the parent and your family values still apply online as much as they do in off-line activities. Digital “records” and digital “footprints” are lasting, regardless of your age.  Walk through the
consequences with your child of good and bad online choices. Discuss your expectations and boundaries of online and social media usage. Do not be afraid to have an online presence in your child’s digital life and world. You are not the only parent dealing with these issues and there are helpful resources available.
including the following tips that came from

The important thing to remember is that even if your child may act like they’re not listening or act like they don’t need your care and concern, the fact is they are listening and they need your love and support more than ever.

Social Media Parenting Tips—Reminders for your tweens & teens

Think before you post.  Everything can be seen by a vast, invisible audience.  It’s a good idea for parents to have access to their kids’ pages, at least at first, to be sure that what’s being posted is
appropriate. Parents can help keep their children from doing something they’ll regret later.

Make sure kids set their privacy settings. Privacy settings aren’t foolproof, but they’re
important. Learn how privacy settings work on your child’s favorite sites, and teach your kids how to control their privacy.

Kindness counts. If your children wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they shouldn’t post it.

Go online. If you don’t have one already, get an account for yourself. See what kids can and can’t do.

Talk about the nature of their digital world. Remind them that anyone can see what’s on their pages — even if they think no one will. Potential employers and college admissions staff often surf social networking sites. Ask your teens to think about who might see their pages and how they might interpret the posts or photos.

Set some rules for what is and isn’t appropriate for your kids to communicate, play, and post online. Posts with photos or comments about youthful misbehavior could come back to haunt them.

Let them know that anything they create or communicate can be cut, altered, pasted, and sent around. Once they put something on their pages, it’s out of their control and can be taken out of context and used to hurt them or someone else. This includes talk and photos of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Tell them that online stuff can last forever. If they wouldn’t put
something on the wall of the school hallway, they shouldn’t post it online.

Don’t post your location. Social networks allow kids to post their location — but it’s not safe.

Resources offers a wide range of tips, suggestions and ratings for social media, texting, gaming, apps, movies, digital citizenship and more. Take advantage of the videos and blogs for more information on how to keep you child safe and informed.