Recently, your son has hung out with a new friend every day after school. When he doesn't come home for dinner one day, you decide to call the house where he says he's been hanging out. His friend's mom answers the phone and is surprised to hear you ask about him being there because her son has told her they were hanging out at your house every day.

Your daughter's grades have declined since the beginning of school and are now at an all-time low. You have casually asked about her lowering grades, but she gives no explanation.

When checking your son's phone, you find that he's been looking at inappropriate pictures.

These are only a few situations when a parent needs to have a difficult conversation with their child. As much as we teach and prepare our children to make good decisions, there will still be times when they make a poor choice. Here are five tips to help these difficult conversations be calm and productive for both of you:

1. Plan what you want to discuss

It can seem less awkward to talk to your child without preparing what you want to say, especially if a negative situation came up suddenly. However, you will convey your thoughts, values and emotions more clearly if you have planned your discussion ahead of time.

Depending on what your child wants to talk about you might need to be flexible and switch topics, but still have an outline of the what you want to express. Include your spouse, and/or any other parents or guardians in what you plan to discuss. If possible, they should be a part of the conversation as well, but if they can't be there, make sure all adults involved agree on what will be said and any changes that may occur as a result.

2. Schedule a time to talk

Don't catch your child off-guard. When they know in advance when you'll be talking and what you'll be talking about, they'll be more likely to respond calmly. It also gives your child time to plan what they can add to the conversation. For many kids, scheduling an activity that promotes discussion (such as going on a hike or playing basketball) is a more productive way to stimulate discussion rather than sitting down in a room talking face-to-face. Explore options to help your child feel most comfortable when having a difficult conversation.

3. Remove distractions and interruptions

Before having a difficult conversation with your child, turn both of your phones off and place them where they can't be seen. In today's world of constant emailing, social media and texting, it's increasingly difficult to discuss important topics without getting interrupted. Pausing a conversation to respond to someone else can leave your child feel unimportant. Choose to meet somewhere away from other family members so they can't overhear or interrupt the conversation.

4. Be ready to listen and receive feedback

Have an open mind when communicating with your child. The conversation doesn't need to be long, but your child needs time to talk and to be heard. When given the time to talk and explain, children often feel comfortable admitting that what they did was wrong or that they could have done things differently. They are also more able to accept any consequences that need to be given. Remember to use praise and empathy to validate your child's feelings. Only when your child feels comfortable and validated can you find solutions that everyone can agree on.

This article was originally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.

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