connecting with teenagers

Why your teen won’t talk to you

Have you been frustrated by a grunt, a mumble or a tween or teen who won’t open up when you know something isn’t right? When your responses to a concerned, sympathetic or caring enquiry come back with a retort of “you wouldn’t understand”, “I don’t want to talk about it”, a slammed door, or a simply a silence?

When we talk about the moody teen, what we often witness is the normal social and emotional changes that accompany the hormonal and developmental changes of the growing adolescent. But sometimes there are reasons why kids refuse to open up to their parents. I have outlined here some of the main explanations I have heard from kids about why they feel they are sometimes reluctant to open up. It by no means provides an answer to solving the problem, but it may well help us be alert to some of the inner workings of your child’s mind and why you may not always be their sounding board or listening ear.

‘You wouldn’t understand’

You have removed yourself from showing any understanding of what its like to be a child growing up today. Sure we don’t need to be our kids ‘buddy’ and we don’t need to pander to their every whim. But we need them to know we have some understanding of the challenges they face and the complexities of the world they are growing up in. Making attempts to let our kids know we ‘get it’, can go a long way to us being the ones they come to in the future should things go wrong.

‘I don’t want to get in to trouble’

Many tweens and teens simply dont speak out to a parent for fear of the consequences. They fear being not allowed out again, they fear changes to curfews or who they hang out with, they fear having their technology taken away or they fear the disappointment you may feel towards them.

You will say ‘I told you so’

Children fear that parents berate their bad judgements and come back with the cliched “I told you so’. Nobody likes to hear that. In time they will come to know that your wisdom came from a place of experience, but right now they are wanting to feel capable of making choices for themselves.

‘You would only worry’

Yes, kids don’t want you to worry, either out of genuine concern or out of fear of repercussions. Either way, our often alarmist and fear oriented attitude to parenting can leave our kids trying hard to shelter you from the reality.

‘You will change your attitude toward my friends’

When a child has an argument or issue with a friend or friendship group, parents are often the last to know as they don’t want you to change your opinions of their mates. When the argument is cleared up, they don’t want to hear you questioning their choice in friends or even prevent them from hanging out with certain groups in the future.

‘I don’t need you to take over and solve all my problems’

Despite our desperate desire to make smooth the journey through adolescents for our children, they themselves actually take pride in sorting their own stuff. They want to feel they are in control of some of their own judgements and decision making. Whilst these are not always in concurrence with what we think is best for them, in their eyes, it is really important they take charge of their own problems.

So next time you are feeling shut out from your tween or teen, ask yourself if any of these situations may be coming in to play. Letting our kids know we don’t always have the answers, that we are there to support and not judge, and that we respect their ability to make good choices, can go a long way to ensuring that they let us in every now and then.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Maxabella

    A fantastic resource for me in just a couple of years time, Martine. I think you’ve hit just about every ‘why not’ I ever felt as a teen. I was much more communicative than many, but that need to protect our own identity and do it on our own is so strong. “Interfering” parents get nothing… which makes me worry a great deal for all the helicopter parents out there, circling around their little kids. What happens when they little kids get big??? x

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes it is a bit concerning for those helicopter parents because we do know how strong that desire for independence can be, especially when we are starting to realise the importance of our friendship groups and the need to venture from the comfort of the family home.

  2. Deb @ inner compass designs

    Great post. My kids are 10 1/2 and just turned 12. As we face high school next year I know it is more important than ever to keep communication going. My top priority is making sure they know 1- they are loved unconditionally (so judgement won’t be something holding back communication) and 2- that I am human and make mistakes. Hoping my teens are less moody than I was as a teen but preparing myself sigh xx

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Sounds like you have a great plan in place Deb, and whilst we cant get it perfect every time, if we are making a good go of it and recognising our mistakes then we will be getting it right. And yes, looking back to our own adolescents certainly can help to keep things in perspective.

  3. Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    Excellent insights Martine. With my eldest nearing the teenage years and with the added element of special needs to be negotiated as well, I will aim to keep these points in mind as the last thing I want to do is push my kids away and stop meaningful discourse with them.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Kirsty, no it certainly isn’t easy to negotiate all those hormones, all that brain development and special needs as well. Knowing what I do about you however, I’m pretty sure you will do a fabulous job.

  4. EssentiallyJess

    So much wisdom there Martine. Thank you for sharing. I can see that I need to make more of an effort letting m kids know I ‘get’ them.

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