Do you have a teenager who is closed off and doesn’t talk to you about their life? Teenagers can often be distant with their parents and hide in their rooms rather than spend time with the family.
They might not be open to having conversations about their lives or seem disinterested in answering you when you ask about their day. This is totally normal and very common for teenagers, but can be very frustrating and hurtful for parents.
Twelve ways to get your teen to open up to you
1. Invite them somewhere they enjoy and spend one-on-one time with them
Doing your teen’s favorite activity with them will be a great way to put them in a good mood and get them talking. For example, if your teen loves hiking, invite them to go on a hike with you. Spend quality time with them and avoid distractions like your phone — try to focus all of your attention on them.
2. Listen more, talk less
Rather than asking a bunch of questions, let your teen guide the conversation. Don’t press if there is a certain topic they don’t feel comfortable talking about. Also, it can be helpful to ask if they want you to listen or want you to help find a solution.
3. Don’t judge
Teens don’t always make the best decisions. If your teen opens up and you react with anger and punish them, that is likely the last time they will tell what’s happening in their life. Instead, try to picture the situation from their point of view. Also, if they ask you a “weird” question, make sure to answer without judgment because adolescents are often curious and still learning about themselves and the world.
4. Don’t make assumptions
If your teen breaks a rule or comes home after curfew, instead of assuming the worst — that they were careless and disrespecting your rules — give them a chance to explain what happened before punishing or lecturing them.
5. Create open communication
If you want your teen to be open with you about their life, make sure your teen understands that they can talk to you about anything. Reassure them that you will be there for them in times of hardship or if they need advice.
6. Help them develop healthy coping mechanisms
One reason teenagers may lash out or shut down is if they feel stressed or unhappy with their life. Being a high school student means dealing with extracurriculars, classes, the SAT/ACT, college applications, demanding social lives, as well as any job or family responsibilities. Many teens have little free time which can create high stress for them. Teach them ways to manage their stress such as meditation or exercise.
7. Give them approval
Tell them how proud you are of them and repeat that often. Celebrate the little things in their life such as the hard work they put into studying for an exam or their dedication to their team. Getting them a small gift or just telling them how proud you are of them will help bring you and your teen closer.
8. Try back and forth journaling
If your teen is really hesitant to talk to you, suggest the two of you try back and forth journaling, where you write one entry and then your teen responds in the next entry and so on. Your teen may feel more comfortable writing down their thoughts and things about their life in a journal rather than speaking about it.
9. Open up to them about your life as a teen
Although it may feel like forever ago, bringing up things from your life as an adolescent can make you seem more relatable to them, and they will be more likely to talk about their life. You can bring up any struggles you had with friends as a teen or hardships during school, or positive things like fun things you used to do during high school.
10. Don’t make everything a lesson
As a parent, it is your job to guide your student and make sure they are on the right path. However, avoid turning their conversations with you into a lesson. Even though your intentions are good, turning everything into an opportunity to lecture can make your teenagers hesitant to share details about their life.
11. Talk about your mistakes
It is important for your student to realize that you are not perfect and that it’s okay to have flaws and to make mistakes. If you talk about your mistakes, your child will be more willing to admit when they mess up and feel comfortable confiding in you if they need advice or are struggling with something.
12. Be there for them in times of need
When your teen is vulnerable and does open up, be there for them and offer genuine advice. Try to empathize with what they may be going through and put yourself in their shoes. Being a teen can be very stressful, so it is very important that you are part of the support system for your child.
Remember it is totally normal for teenagers to be closed off and spend much of their time in their room or on their phone. It can be hard to get them to talk to you but keep in mind you are there to guide them and help them turn into the best version of themselves. Being supportive and loving are the best things you can do for them.
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