My Teen Won't Talk to Me

photo by home2stay

These teens look happy!

If one mom of a teen has said this, a million have. Getting teenagers to open up and talk can feel like a mission impossible. The way that teenagers turn inward, toward their friends--and away from their families--causes a great deal of strife in a household. For a lot of mothers, it's a time of overwhelming confusion and true despair.


One anonymous mom says her 14-year-old daughter is "out of reach." She's having unprotected sex and she's been drinking and fighting. While this may seem like the extreme, a surprising number of mothers chimed in to say that they identify with what the mother is going through. SuchaSmartMom provided a link to her awesome website, wherein she has an interview with Laurie Wong, a woman who runs a course entitled "Active Parenting of Teens."  SuchaSmartMom says this conversation was enlightening for her. If you are struggling with a difficult teenager who just won't talk, I'm passing along what she found below.

This information is powerful, yet amazingly simple stuff. I hope it's enlightening for you too!

1. Once our kids reach adolescence, our role needs to change to that of a consultant. Rather than controlling what our teens do, we have to influence them and talk to them about their options. (Notable exceptions to this rule: violence, sex, drugs and alcohol, subjects that are covered in Wong’s class.)

“We need to discipline our kids but still be someone they want to talk to,” Wong said.

Sometimes we may not like what we hear. But it’s vital that our kids feel close enough to us to share what’s on their mind.

Putting the advice into action: Your child is venting about a teacher who he doesn’t think much of, and he says he doesn’t care what kind of grade he gets in the class because Mr. Jones is such a jerk.

Don’t say: “That’s no way to talk about your teacher.”

Try this instead: “It sounds like you are so upset with Mr. Jones that it’s impacting your dreams. How do you think you can get along with him so that you still learn from his class and get a good grade?”

2. Don’t take slights personally. It is perfectly normal for teens to roll their eyes and take a greater interest in their friends than their family, It’s perfectly normal for teens to be defensive and judgmental of everyone around them. The key to surviving this is to not take anything as a personal attack.

Putting the advice into action: You just got home from work. You’re exhausted and need to get dinner started. You ask your teen to set the table and she says she doesn’t want to.

Don’t say: “How dare you say no. Can you see that I’m exhausted? You set that table right now!”

Try this instead: “I know you may not want to do it. I’m tired, too. Would you rather do it now or in five minutes?”

3. There’s a reason why some teens spend much of their time in their rooms with the door closed. (I love this one.) If you want your teen to spend time with the family, ask yourself: What do I do when I see my teen sitting idly? Teens need down time, just like we do. They will take refuge in their rooms if that is the only place where we leave them alone.

Putting the advice into action: You return home on Saturday afternoon and your teen is sitting on the coach in the family room doing nothing.

Don’t say: “Don’t you have anything better to do?” or “Don’t just sit there. Empty the dishwasher and then clean the bathroom.”

Try this instead: Create a situation where you can do something together. Tell her about your day. Ask her opinion on something. In short, visit.

“If we want them to open up to us, we have to open up to them,” Wong said. “Parents need to do most of the changing. We’re the ones who want the contact.”

4. Final thought: You’re in good company. Wong said to remember that all families with teens, even hers, share similar struggles. The parents who flock to her classes “just love my horror stories,” she said with a laugh.

Please share your teen story here, and then check out for more information on the Active Parenting of Teens classes.

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