Strategies for Parenting Teens: How to Get Your Teenager to Open Up to You

Getting teens to open up is one of the most important tasks of parenting a teenager. It is also one of the most challenging parts of parenthood. If your teen rolls her eyes, walks away angrily, or retreats to his bedroom when you try to talk to him or her, you are not alone. Many parents face the same issues when it comes to talking to their teen.

Why Is It Important for Your Teen to Talk to You?

Teenagers are developing their identity and becoming more independent during the teen years. It is natural for them to want to put distance between themselves and their family and exercise independent thinking. The problem is that teenagers are faced with very difficult choices and they often do not have the judgment that is needed to accurately weigh the risks of these choices. They are often faced with decisions about school, sex or drugs and many teenagers turn to their friends for advice, which can be problematic. It is important that your teenager feel comfortable reaching out to you for advice, rather than turning to friends who might steer them in the wrong direction. If your teenager feels as though you will listen to them without judgment when they come to you, they will likely ask for your advice when they really need help. In addition, healthy communication will help you continue to have a positive relationship with your teenager. So, how can you get your teenager to talk honestly and openly with you? Here are some tips from top parenting experts to help improve your communication with your teen.

Practice Judgment-Free Listening

When your teen shares something with you, listen. No matter how strongly you feel about something, listen without being judgmental. For instance, if your teen comes home from school and says that he quit the baseball team, your first impulse might be to chastise him for quitting. You might point out how you spent a lot of money on the uniform, how he let his teammates down or claim he didn't really give it a chance before quitting. Saying things like this will likely lead to your teen putting up a wall. Instead, try empathizing with him, pointing out that it must have been a hard decision for him to make. That will open up the conversation, prompting him to explain his reasoning. Then, you might be able to help him examine this choice to determine if it was really for the best.

Resist the Urge to Talk

Often parents talk at teenagers instead of to them. The problem with this is that it leads the teen to feel as though they are getting a lecture, rather than being listened to. A good rule of thumb is to listen twice as much as you speak. If your teen has broken a household rule, avoid accusatory questions, such as “why were you 15 minutes late?” Instead, simply remind her of the expectations and the consequences for misbehavior. Follow through with the consequences for the tardiness and leave it at that.

When to Seek Professional Help

It is normal for teenagers to go through changes and not want to open up at certain times. However, drastic changes in your teenager could mean that you need to seek professional help. Some drastic changes to be alert for are the following:

  • Significant mood swings
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Serious changes in behavior
  • Stealing or other illegal activities

If your teenager is experiencing any of the above issues, it might be a sign that he or she has a more significant issue that is beyond what simple communication can solve. If so, contact a mental health professional for guidance.

If you would like more information and tips to help your teen open up to you click here.


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