Teens are well known for NOT talking to their parents. Of their own free will or when asked a question. Teens are stumbling their way through the adolescent stage of development, a stage of development that includes many aspects; one of which is developing autonomy.
When I was a teenager I can distinctly remember my mom or dad asking me a question, one that I knew the answer to, but instead saying “I don’t know”. Not because I wanted to be difficult or oppositional, in fact I often felt guilty and ashamed for not answering when they asked me a question.
I simply didn’t want to talk in that moment, when they decided it was time for me to talk. I didn’t like how they always started conversations with me by asking me a question about why I did or didn’t do something, how school was, who that person is, etc, etc.
I would have liked them to start conversations with me in which they shared their feelings, or expressed curiosity about my thoughts, advice or opinion about something, one in which they shared a human experience so I knew they were human and made mistakes too. I wanted them to get to know me, not manage me. And I wanted to get to know them.
I didn’t know it at the time but I know now I was attempting to establish some control over my relationship with my parents. I wanted to have control over when I talked or shared information with my parents. I was frustrated about the way they asked intrusive questions to find out about my life rather than try and connect with me emotionally and share their own feelings with me. I was trying to tell them I wanted to talk to them but I needed them to discuss with me, share with me, connect with me…not interrogate me, lecture me or manage me.
Developing autonomy is extremely important; developing autonomy teaches young humans:
- to be independent,
- to rely upon themselves,
- to develop skills for adulthood,
- to believe in themselves.
Of course the best way to Get Your Teen To Talk is to give them space to express themselves. You can do that by counting to 30 in your head after you ask a question, wonder out loud about something, wait after they make an under the breath comment, a moody sigh.
Give them space to share when they are ready…they will!!!
Just remember to count to 30.
If counting to 30 doesn’t work, try 45. Then try 60. If you get to 60 and they still haven’t talked yet, try saying: “I would love to hear about this (or insert topic) when you are ready to talk, text me when you are ready and I will come find you and be ready to listen.”
Email me and let me know how this works for you at Jax@psykotherapist.com
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