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Adolescents & Advice aren’t BFFs. But here’s how you can be a friend

Do you know how teenagers are? They are that extra sugar in your tea you never asked for. But, you get used to the taste and eventually love it.

You must be wondering what business do I have writing this?

I may not have experience raising a teenager, but I was one. And it has been a couple of years now that I am very actively working with adolescents from pretty much all around the country to encourage them to have an open conversation about a very crucial topic - their reproductive health. The key takeaway, from my time and the time I am spending now with adolescents, is that an unsolicited advice almost never works. Often it's taken as a criticism and then, it's all downhill from there.

When I was little, I was hardly ever bombarded with information and left to process it on my own. Which is why it's always a good idea to check with your teen if s/he'd be interested in your big spiel. Start your sentences along the likes "would you like to..", "how about..." These may give them a vibe that's more warm and friendly. However, please understand that your pearls of wisdom might get rejected, but that shouldn't put you in a sour mood. In fact, this is your window to establish a solid connection with your teen, by respecting their choice and opinion about things. Frame your sentences in a way that sounds like it's coming from a friend rather than someone who is an authority.

My parents always gave me my space, understood that there was a generation gap between us because of which our thoughts may not be aligned. The first step to success is to realise that you may fail. In this case, a parent should make an effort to understand that they may not have full knowledge of the subjects their kids are experts at. For instance, Netflix binge or say different types of chips & artificially flavoured drinks they consume each day may cause you to worry and that might result in a long (and boring to say the least) conversation that your teen will, for sure, tune out of. But that doesn't mean one must clam up about important health topics; you just want your kid to be safe, no harm there.

Asking earnest questions help, such as "would you help me understand." Immediately you'll see how they're invested in giving their two cents about a topic they know best. Please understand that by being open you'll be giving them that one chance to shine at a conversation that has been mostly dominated by you all these years.

However, these are really not one-size-fits-all advices. Different things work differently for different people. But, my adolescent phase was made easy because my parents knew when to be a friend.Having said that, when it comes to really crucial topics like their mental & physical healthI, I think open communication is the key to get your adolescent talking about any challenges they may be facing.

Reproductive health is one such topic which most parents refrain from addressing & most adolescents avoid discussing. Communication gap in such important topics may lead to much bigger challenges and health implications during later stages of their life. A parent, I beleive, should offer a space, in which a kid can enter and spend time comfortably without fearing any judgments.

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