Talking to kids and teenagers when you suspect something is wrong at home, something’s different in their mood or when you think they might be in some kind of trouble with friends can be scary. It’s hard to know what (and what not) to say. Many of us are afraid to get involved for fear of making the situation worse, or putting ourselves in a vulnerable position as adults.
I (and a few other psychologists) recently helped the American Psychological Association assemble a tip sheet for talking with kids when you suspect they need help. These tips are useful for teachers, neighbors, family members, friends – just about anyone who has contact with kids or teens. Here’s my favorite tip from the list:
Try to avoid speaking from a script. Teens can tell when you’re not being genuine. If you are open, authentic and relaxed, it will help them to be the same.