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It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen to Your Teenager

It’s crucial to give your teenager your full attention when they want to talk. We know it can be hard because you grew up in a different time and had different experiences as a teenager. But what matters most is listening carefully to your teen and understanding what’s important to them.

When your teenager wants to chat, take a moment to pause what you’re doing and focus on them. Don’t jump in with your own thoughts or interrupt. Instead, just listen. Your kids have thoughts and experiences that you might not know about, and when they reach out to talk, it’s a precious opportunity to connect and understand them better. So, remember, listening is a powerful way to build a strong bond with your teenager.

Put Yourself in Their ShoesPhoto of a teenager's foot in a tennis shoe representing a teen therapist's understanding of the value of trying to imagine what your teenager is going through (putting yourself in their shoes) when trying to talk to your teen son or daughter.

When you’re listening to your teenager, it’s natural to want to jump in and fix things, offer advice, or maybe even brush off their concerns or thoughts. It’s normal to react this way as a parent. You care about your teen. And you have more lived experience than they do. You see things differently and you want to help make things easier for them. The truth is that you may clearly see the mines hidden in the minefield they’re walking through and you’re trying to guide them through those. But it often has the opposite impact of what you’re going through.

Try to imagine how you’d feel if someone, like your spouse, reacted to you in the same way you sometimes react to your teen.

Imagine sharing something important with someone you care about, and instead of really listening, they immediately tried to solve your problem. Or perhaps they gave you advice when all you needed was someone to hear you out. It might even feel frustrating if they didn’t take your feelings seriously.

That’s the same way your teenager might feel when you respond that way. They want you to hear them, understand them, and acknowledge their feelings. So, the next time your teen opens up to you, remember to lend them your full attention and empathy, just like you’d want from someone you confide in. It’s a great way to show your teen that you care and respect their thoughts and feelings.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Teens often give away more than they realize with their body language. So, pay attention. Especially when they’re not speaking to you as much as you’d like.

Ask Your Teen Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Also, be careful to avoid close ended yes or no answer questions. Teens are fantastic at giving one word answers and moving on. So, look for those more open ended questions that take at least a full sentence to answer. Bonus points if you’re asking about something they truly care about, because your teenager is much more likely to talk in depth about something that interest them.

When & Where You Talk to Your Teen Makes a Difference

Timing and location can greatly impact the quality of your conversations with your teenager. It’s important to choose these carefully to ensure a receptive atmosphere for open communication.

After school might seem like an ideal time to catch up, but it’s often not the best moment. Just like you need some relaxation time after a long day at work, your teen needs time to unwind after school. They’ve been navigating classes, social interactions, and the pressures of teenage life, so they require a breather. Instead of bombarding them with questions right after school, give them space to decompress.

A valuable space for talking to your teen is in the car. It’s a unique environment because, unlike at home, you’re not looking directly at each other, which can help reduce the pressure and make them feel more comfortable. However, be mindful of whether their friends are in the back seat, as this might make your teen less likely to open up.

Teen Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI

Great Lake Wellness Counseling is here to help you rebuild and fortify your relationship, all while nurturing your faith. If you’re a parent seeking guidance on connecting with your teenager, we understand the importance of a harmonious family dynamic.  Take the first step towards effectively reaching your teenager and helping them improve their mental health. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

Explore Our Range of Counseling Services in the Grand Rapids & Jenison Area

At Great Lakes Wellness Counseling, we provide a wide range of therapy services tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re seeking Christian or traditional psychotherapy, we offer support for men, women, and teenagers. Our mental health counseling specialties include assistance with grief, depression, couples/marriage counseling, anxiety, and more. Additionally, we provide faith based Christian counseling if you are looking for a mental health counselor who understands your family’s Christian faith. You can access these services in person in Jenison or online throughout the state of Michigan. You deserve support. At Great Lakes Wellness Counseling, our counselors offer hope, healing, and change from a Christian perspective.