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Teens, Parents Learn To Open Channels at Weston Forum

WESTON, Conn. – At the Family University at Weston High School, a teen therapist and writer offered some pithy advice to parents when it comes to talking with their teenage children.

“Pretend to be calm,” said Dr. Barbara Greenberg, co-author of “Teenage as a Second Language.” “If you escalate the conversation, they are going to run to their room."

The event Tuesday offered more than 150 teens and parents a chance to build communication skills and improve relationships to reduce family stress during adolescence. The Weston Youth Commission, the Silver Hill Foundation and the Alcohol Drug Awareness Program sponsored the three-hour event. It featured guest speakers Greenberg and Alex Boianghu, a school counselor at Whisconier Middle School in Brookfield.

Greenberg touched on several hot topics such as whether a parent should be their child’s friend. Through her research, she said she has learned teens want to be connected to their parents but also want to control the dialogue. Parents should not confront children, she said, but make connections through indirect questions and not interrupt when a child is speaking.

Greenberg said parents should be nurturing and set limits but should not try to be their children's friend because it could be humiliating in social situations for the child. Also, parents should be Facebook friends with their teens but not interfere in their day-to-day posts.

“Parents should not comment on their kids Facebook posts, but monitor their teen’s accounts and use parental controls,” she said. Parents should also limit time on cellphones and take them away before bed to keep kids from texting all night.

Greenberg said kids don’t date anymore but have a “hook-up” culture in which they engage in sexually dangerous practices with no emotional attachments. Parents should use celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and shows such as “Teen Moms” to show teens the consequences of dangerous behaviors.

“The heart, mind and body are a team,” she said. “You have to have dialogue with them."

Boianghu, who spoke to both teens and parents, made a presentation on making connective relationships, based on the book “When Kids Push Your Buttons” by Bonnie Quinn.

He said parents and teens should use proactive language, not reactive language, and maintain a sense of calmness.

“Anger destroys relationships,” he said. Proactive habits include controlling one thing at a time, turning setbacks into triumphs and making choices based on values, Boianghu said.

Understanding a child’s temperament, using passive listening skills and having a win/win attitude are important when it comes to communicating, he said. “Seek first to understand and then to be understood."

Lois Pernice, director of pupil services in the Weston School District, said she was pleased with the event. Topics discussed at the event, the first of its kind in the district, will be continued and expanded during the school year, she said.

“Many people have told me they would like to see more of this,” Pernice said.

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