Reading Your Child's Diary
Talking with Your Teen or Tween
When talking to your teen, try to make the conversation a communication, not a criticism. "Just say no" is not likely to be a good starting point. Instead, use information about her friends, controversial TV programs, or film star scandals in the news to jump-start conversations about the dangers of substance abuse and sexual risks in today's times. And be careful about sharing your own drug, alcohol or sexual history, particularly if you had an experimental and/or daring past. "No one in my class was a virgin by junior year," or "I was a real pothead in high school," are not helpful experiences for your teen to hear if you want to encourage responsible caution and good judgment.
Last, but not least, if your preteen or teen is doing well in life, (school achievements, stable mood, good friends, healthy sleeping and eating, respect for family rules, etc.) you don't need to peek at her diary for information, she's showing you that her life is fine. And if she's not doing well, (school failures, social isolation, moodiness, lies, defiance, insomnia, eating disorders, etc.) signs of her struggles will be all around you. A parent who needs to peek is a parent who feels she doesn't really know what's going on in her teen's mind. A better way to ensure the health and welfare of your preteen or teen is to keep talking each and everyday! Good luck!
Dr. Siegler is the director of the Institute for Child, Adolescent and Family Studies in New York City, and the author of two award-winning books for parents, "What Should I Tell the Kids? A Parent's Guide to Real Problems in the Real World," and "The Essential Guide to the New Adolescence: How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Teenager." She is married and the mother of two children.