talking to a teenager

What to Do When Your Teenager Won’t Talk to You

July 25, 2022

One of the most challenging things for parents is learning to communicate with their children as they age. As kids become teenagers, they begin to develop their identity and independence. While this is a natural progression, it can be frustrating for parents who notice a lack of open communication from their teens. So what should parents do when their teenagers won’t talk to them?

Why Teens Don’t Talk to Their Parents

Adolescence is a time of growth and development, creating challenges for parent-child relationships. As teenagers discover who they are and form their own opinions, they may be less likely to confide in their parents. They develop closer friendships and feel more comfortable talking to their peers about topics they used to go to their family for. While this is the most common reason for secrecy in teens, sometimes a lack of communication warrants concern. Underlying issues, such as mental health or substance use disorders, can lead them to hide symptoms or concerning behaviors. 

How to Get Your Teenager to Talk

For many parents, it’s tempting to force their teens to talk. However, this can create a divide in this relationship rather than closeness. In contrast, parents who encourage open lines of communication in their household notice that their teens are more likely to talk about more serious issues. But how can you foster candid discussions as a parent?

Share Your Own Experiences

Sharing your experiences often opens the door to your teen bringing concerns to you. Children tend to view their parents as infallible until a certain age. As they transition to adolescence, they begin to see imperfections in family members. When you are willing to share areas where you have messed up or experiences you’ve learned from, they see that it’s okay to make mistakes. This then helps them feel comfortable talking to you about their shortcomings.

Be Open to All Topics

In conversations with your teen, no subject should be off-limits. As you start having frank discussions, bring up uncomfortable topics early on like drugs, alcohol, sex, and relationships. If you demonstrate an ability to talk about these issues candidly, your teenager will be more likely to come to you if they are dealing with related situations. 

Emphasize Trust

Start with a foundation of trust in your teen. Let them know that you want to trust their decision-making skills and give them space to learn from their mistakes. However, talk to them about situations that could impair your ability to fully trust them. If they lie about important issues or are intentionally misleading, this damages trust and may lead to more questions.

Hold Back Judgment

When your teen discloses something that’s concerning to you, do your best to withhold judgment. After ensuring their safety, what’s most important is for your teenager to know they can continue to talk to you. If they’ve done something you don’t agree with, let them know you appreciate their openness. Then, work with your teen to solve the issue and discuss a plan moving forward.

Help for Teens Struggling with Mental Illness

Sometimes, teens will disclose to their parents that they are struggling with a mental health issue, but other times, it’s silence that lets parents know something is wrong. Increased isolation, secrecy, and avoidance are all noteworthy changes and may indicate a mental illness. However, there is help available at The Forum. We provide diagnostic services to help determine the source of your teen’s symptoms and develop a plan of care based on their diagnosis. Our case management team ensures you and your teen have access to the resources and support you need throughout their treatment. If your teen would benefit from mental health treatment, contact our San Diego center today.