Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me? (Part 1 of 3)
I often hear from parents that they wish their teen would open up to them more. Things like…
“Why won’t she talk to me?”
“I try to ask her about her day and she just says ‘fine.”
“My teen would rather put her earbuds in than talk with me.”
“We end up arguing more often than not – help!”
Believe it or not, your teen does want to talk with you! Many times, however, parents are trying too hard to force communication with their teen by giving unsolicited advice, cornering their kids, or blowing up. Let’s talk about a few ways you can change your behavior today to help encourage more open and honest communication with your teen.
1.) Listen more and talk less with your teen. Avoid all lecturing and advice-giving.
The teenage brain is constantly growing and changing. It is literally wired to take more risk and push away from caregivers. Their brain is actively pruning away unnecessary parts in order to make room for independent thinking and acting.
See this video by Dr. Daniel Siegel for more on the teenage brain
Why, then, would it make sense for us to expect our teens to want our unsolicited advice? Here’s an example of what I often hear in my work with teens and their parents.
Mom: Well, yesterday Jane was crying again about her friends being mean to her. I told her that she should just get some new friends because real friends don’t treat each other that way. She needs friends who are kind and who don’t act so ugly. Then Jane just blew up at me! She told me to get out of her room and leave her alone. Can you believe that?
Does this sound familiar? Are you often giving advice about what your teen should or shouldn’t do to solve problems? Are you consistently feeling frustrated that they don’t do what you suggest? STOP GIVING ADVICE!! Instead, consider these possible responses to open up dialogue:
Reflect what you see: “Jane, something has made you sad.” (then shhhhhh…..don’t talk.)
Act without talking: Rub Jane’s back or knee. Nod sympathetically. Give an encouraging smile.
Use one word responses: “OH!” or “Really?” or “Hmmm…” (and then hush!)
Ask open ended questions: “Then what happened?” or “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think your options are?”
Be available: If you teen wants to talk, she or he will often let you know nonverbally first (stomping around, crying, heavy sighs). Put down whatever you are doing and turn to face your teen. Pull the car over if you need to. Use your body to show that you are available if they want to talk. A kind smile without words goes a long way.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series –- “Step 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”