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Communication Listening

Surveys show that both young people and parents want to talk to each other. Many young people think parents don't listen. Likewise, parents trying to make an important point, see kids roll their eyes. Outside distractions can also make communicating tough. And sometimes either a parent or a young person shuts down communication completely.

Eighteen-year-old Corey tells his parents almost everything, because communication in his family begins with respect.

"I trust my mom and dad," he says. "We've had some pretty wild conversations. I've never done anything really crazy, but we do talk about a lot of stuff. I guess the bottom line is, I know they love me."

Corey's parents and he sometimes disagree. Still, they let Corey voice his opinions. Like the time Corey, then 15, announced he wanted to get a tattoo. He knew his parents were upset. But after a long discussion, Corey decided to wait until he was at least 18 to decide what to do.

Kerry's family is another example of open communication. Kerry was 16 when her second sex partner infected her with HIV. Kerry had a strong relationship with her parents. During the years she lived with HIV, they were a tremendous support.

But Kerry says one day she was feeling especially depressed. "I just wanted my mom to listen," Kerry said, "but she kept trying to fix everything. She can't fix everything."

Stepping in when a child is struggling is a natural instinct. But sometimes the most important thing you can do is to listen. Young people often can work out their own troubles if they have a chance to talk about them. As Pam Wilson, MSW, a sexuality educator says, listening builds trust.

"Listen, listen, listen," says Wilson. "Because if parents can tune into their children, and try to understand how their children feel about things, their children will be more likely to come to them."

Kerry was always grateful to live in a home where she was heard. She urged other parents to give their children a chance to speak up and share their thoughts, worries, and opinions. "When your kids come to you and want to talk, you need to be really open-minded and not to preach, but listen. Always make your kids feel that they can talk to you about anything."

Kerry died of complications of HIV at the age of 22.

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