If you are a parent of a teenager or have a teenager in your life, chances are there are many times your teenager does not want to talk. This can be really hard on you — believe me, I understand. When my daughter started middle school, I wanted to know everything: how her day was, how her friends were, what her sports practices were like. It didn’t take me long to realize that she didn’t want to share every aspect of her life with me. Sometimes, she just didn’t want to talk.
This was really hard on me. Sometimes I would ask her a question and she would point blankly say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” So, I’d tried rewording it. That didn’t work. It usually took about three times of her saying she didn’t want to talk about it for me to give up. Giving up doesn’t always seem like the best solution, so what can we do?
According to Holly Brown, LMFT, in an article titled Why Your Teen Doesn’t Talk to You, “If you can realize some of the things you’re doing that are accidentally off-putting to your child, you’ll be better able to connect with him or her.” She goes on to say that as a therapist, she meets with teenagers who normally don’t talk a lot with their parents but open right up with her. She is not doing anything magical; it’s more what she is not doing. Here is her list:
1. I’m not doing anything other than talking to them.
2. I’m not telling them the “right” way to do things.
3. Mostly, I’m not commenting; I’m asking questions. And not questions that I already know the answer to, or where I’m trying to get them to give a certain answer I’ll find pleasing.
4. I don’t interrupt, even when I can guess where something is going.
5. I don’t tell them that I’m the parent, and they just have to do as I say.
In her last paragraph, Brown says, “You can ask your kids for feedback on how you’re doing as a parent. You can show that you care what they think and feel. Then you can incorporate that into how you do things in the future. An open dialogue doesn’t undermine your authority. It actually enhances it.”
In my own personal experience, I just had to give my daughter the space she needed. Often, I would tell her I was there for her if she ever wanted to talk about anything. I didn’t stop asking questions and caring about her life, but I did show more respect when she didn’t want to talk. I also worked at just being with her and not talking all the time. For instance, one time we drove from one town to another in complete silence. It was about a 30-minute drive. It about killed me. It took a lot of self discipline not to talk. I just thought I would be quiet and see if she wanted to talk. She didn’t and I believe it was a nice experience for her to just ride with her mom in a car without having to talk about a thing.
This daughter is now in high school and she is much more open than she used to be. I think she knows I respect her and I am here for her. I love it when she shares things about her life with me. I think when I started respecting her, believing in her, and giving her a little more space, she felt it and grew on her own.
As my wise grandma told me, “This too shall pass.” Sometimes, we just need to be patient and realize the teenage years will pass, and we will just do our best while getting through them.