How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?

HOW DO I FIND OUT WHAT MY TEEN IS UP TO? WHY IS MY TEEN SLAMMING THE DOOR IN MY FACE? WHY DO THEY ALWAYS RESPOND, "I DON'T KNOW"? WHY DOES MY TEEN TEXT WITH FRIENDS AT ALL HOURS, BUT WILL NOT TALK TO ME?

As a parent of a teen, you might have had one or all of these questions go through your mind. I see this lack of communication between teenagers and their parents often. 

It is common for a teen to feel comfortable talking with their friends about what they are experiencing rather than a parent. Adolescence is a time when they are changing and growing the most. This is also a time when their ego is mostly centered around themselves and less about others around them. They feel that people who can understand them the most are their peers and friends who are experiencing similar stressors.

Some of the biggest stressors teens face are changing of friends, finding a purpose, bullying, pressure to do well in school, and applying for colleges. As a teen, there are a lot of different pressures put on them inside and outside of the home. This is a great time to assist your teen in developing time management and prioritizing skills.

The best thing you can do as a parent is be there for your teen without pushing for too much information. This shows that you are respecting their space, but also providing support when needed. If a teen is going through something completely traumatic or very stressful, have faith that he or she will come to you for help. If your teen is showing "moodiness", it may be due to feeling too stressed or overwhelmed. You can ask if they want to talk about whatever has them in a bad mood, but if they say, "no" then I would give them the respect of waiting it out. 

There are times when more intervention needs to be done. An example is if you find your teen has become depressed (crying often, not wanting to spend time with friends, lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, change in appetite, and sleep problems) then I would ask them what is going on. If they still do not want to share, then it might be a good idea to contact the school counselor or seek an outside therapist. This therapist could be the confidant needed for your teen to have a safe place to express themselves without feeling judged or pressured. There are mental health behavioral issues, other than depression, that can be treated by a professional therapist as well.

But what if your child does not seem to have a mental health issue and it seems they still want to shut you out?  I would try the previously mentioned technique of providing support while distancing yourself from asking too many prying questions. Another technique that I tell my clients to use is to create a parent-child journal. You can get any blank journal to do this. The parent would start to write in it whatever he or she is feeling or a question they have for their child. The parent would then leave the journal on the bed of the child when the child was not around. The child would then get home from school (or wherever) and read the journal entry. The child would then respond in the journal and share any thoughts/feelings/reactions to what the parent said. The child can feel free to write whatever comes to mind. The child would then leave the journal on the parent's bed when the parent was not around. This would then continue for open communication. There would be no deadline on when the journal needs to be returned and the rule would be that what was written in the journal could not be talked about in person or shared with anyone else. This technique can help strengthen your relationship with your teen. Start off slow with simple questions and shortl sentences. 

For some more reading on this topic, read this article.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Courtney Glashow, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.

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