This post: How to talk to a teenager who doesn’t want to talk
It may not be the case with every teenager, but for a lot of parents of teens, it’s their daily life…
Their child has mastered the art of saying as few words as humanly possible – at least around them.
Oftentimes, we can brush off their (rather frustrating) behavior as a temporary byproduct of their raging hormones and their growing need for privacy. Other times, however, we might have to dig a little deeper to figure out why our kids are shutting us out.
Teenagers are complicated beings.
They want their independence, but they need to know we’re there. They want our guidance, but they’re not always accepting of our advice. They want to talk to us, but what we have to say irritates them.
To get our kids to open up to us and share their world, we need to break the barriers that exist between us and our teens. Here are a few tips that might help open up the lines of communication between you and your teen.
How to Talk to a Teenager Who Doesn’t Want to Talk
Let Them Be the Smartest Person in the Room for a Change
We’re so hyper-focused on the fact that our kids have shut us out of their world that we oftentimes fail to realize that we might have a hand in their behavior.
If teens could tell us what they really think of us without the fear of getting in trouble, they’d most likely tell us that we talk too much, that we’re far too bossy, and that we’re a know it all. And, they’d probably be right.
If we want our kids to open up to us, they need to know that we’ll be accepting of their thoughts and views about everything and anything (even though we may not agree) and that we’re willing to let them “have the floor” occasionally. Step down from your pedestal of parental perfection and let your child be the smartest person in the room for a change.
Limit the Lectures
If I knew someone was going to bombard me with questions, lecture me about what I should (or shouldn’t) do or hit me up with an endless to-do list every time I walked in the door, I wouldn’t talk to them either.
Time with your teenager under your roof is fleeting. Don’t waste that precious time, and inadvertently push them away in the process, pounding them with petty stuff that won’t matter in the long run. Unless it’s important, prioritize your questions and limit your lectures. The less hyper-focused and the more stress-free and casual your conversations are with your teen, the more likely they’ll be to open up and talk to you.
Pick Your Battles
When our kids were young we orchestrated every aspect of their lives. But now they’re teenagers. They’re itching for more control over their own lives, they’re pulling away to develop their own identity and, in many cases, our opinions and thoughts simply don’t hold the same value in their eyes.
Somewhere in the crossroad between our kids fighting for more autonomy and our desire to cling to our parental control, lays the battleground – a battleground that holds the power to put a huge wedge between you and your teen.
Rather than fight them every step of the way, loosen your grip and let them win a few battles. To open the lines of communication, they need to view you as a partner, not a dictator.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
When you have a fickle teenager on your hands whose entire vocabulary consists of only a handful of words including “I dunno,” “I guess so,” “nah,” and “there’s nothing to eat,” you have to get creative.
Rather than giving your teen an easy way out by asking simple “yes” or “no” questions, ask open-ended questions to get them talking and engaging with you. Once you get them talking, give them an opportunity to open up on their terms. The key is to show interest in their world, offer them the support they need and refrain from judging, criticizing or piling on a boatload of questions.
Respect Their Need for Privacy
Of course, we need to respect our kids’ growing need for privacy, but we also have to strive to gain their trust so they want to come to us.
The reason most teenagers avoid telling their parents anything is that they fear their parents’ response. Quite often teens learn (through trial and error) that if they share their world with their parents, chances are their parents won’t always agree with their decisions or actions, which oftentimes spawns criticism, a lecture or a full-blown argument. To avoid the headache, teenagers become tight-lipped.
Teenagers desperately need the approval of their parents – especially considering the fragility of their self-esteem during the tumultuous teen years. Cut your kid some slack when they choose to keep you in the dark (unless you suspect they’re involved in something dangerous) and, instead, look for opportunities to work your way into their world. When they do share things with you, respond in a non-judgmental, calm manner (even if you have to bite your lip) so they continue to feel comfortable coming to you about anything.
Go For a Drive
One of the best ways to get your teen talking is to get them in the car and go for a drive (the longer the better). It’s a casual way to sneak in a laid-back (often insightful) conversation.
Plus, the fact that your teen is held slightly captive in the car means they can’t escape to their bedroom. And, unless they’re engulfed in their phone, there are typically far fewer distractions.
Throw Some Fun into the Mix
Life is stressful – for us and for our teens. Parents and teens today are packing more into their daily schedules than decades past and it shows. What we all need is a little more carefree fun in our lives.
Help your teen escape from the stress in their life (i.e. school, friend drama, college preparations, work, etc.) and get them out of the house doing something fun.
Whether you plan a fun afternoon in the city hitting a couple of cool museums, go on an afternoon hiking adventure or plan a hassle-free, calm weekend in the mountains, help your teen take a big, deep breath and view life through a different lens. Sometimes, a change of scenery and a little fun is all our kids need to open up and realize we really are on their side.
Treat Them Like an Adult
Regardless of how old our kids get, they’ll always be our babies. But heads up, parents, our babies aren’t quite so little anymore. Even though we know they have a lot to learn, in their eyes they have it all figured out. Give them a chance to strengthen their wings before they fly by backing off and letting them take the reins.
Our kids not only need the experience of making tough decisions (while we’re still by their side to offer guidance) but the more decisions they make and the more control they have over their own lives, the more confident and better equipped they’ll be when it does come time for them to leave the nest. Plus, the more we offer our kids (at least some of) the much-needed freedom they crave to make their own decisions, the more they’ll respect us for recognizing their needs.
Timing Really Is Everything
You’ve been dying to talk to your teen about how much you miss them and that it hurts how much they’ve been pulling away. You finally have your thoughts in order, you wait for your teen to get home from school or work and lay it on them.
There’s a famous quote that states, “Honest communication and bad timing make the most painful combination.” The bottom line is, timing really is everything.
Whether you want to chat with your teen about something simple like upcoming family plans or something a lot deeper like their future, choose the time wisely. Avoid walking into the snake pit when they’re exhausted, hungry or majorly hormonal and instead wait until they’re relaxed, calm and rested.
Don’t Take it Personally
Teenagers have a way of changing faster than a Vegas showgirl. One month they’re chatty, the next you can’t get a word out of them. Your child is growing and changing every single day. The way they are today won’t necessarily be the way they are next year or possibly even next month. Keep it in perspective and, above all, don’t take it personally.
Nearly all teenagers pull away from their parents to some degree. Rather than freaking out, remember they have a lot of growing up to do and they need space to do it. Your child’s need for alone time and privacy isn’t just normal, it’s necessary. They’re tapping into their own feelings, figuring out who they are and who they one day want to become.
Slip those conversations in when you can, but don’t worry when they don’t happen. Remember, they won’t be teenagers forever.
How to talk to a teenager who doesn’t want to talk: Tell us what you’re doing to get your teenager to open up to you! Tell us what’s working, what’s not and how your teen is responding in the comments section below.