The teenage years are the time when kids are developing their own unique identity, says Stephanie Nilva, executive director of Day One New York, an organization in New York City that counsels survivors of intimate partner violence. “At the same time, their personalities haven’t been fully formed. Remember: It’s their role and responsibility to be testing boundaries, to be exploring, to be figuring out what their identity is.” Given this, you want to try to be as open as possible to talking to your teen about even the most awkward of topics.
If your kids haven’t hit the teen stage quite yet, here’s some good news: Now’s the time to build trust with them. “Make sure the children in your household feel comfortable talking to you,” Nilva says. Then, when they’re older, make sure when you’re thinking about discipline or accountability, what comes first is your overall concern with their health and safety. “In other words, urge them to talk to you even if you’re upset that your teen violated an understanding you had whether it’s about violating a curfew or anything else—that trust is what’s most important.”