How to Talk to Teens When Teens Don’t Want to Talk

Sometimes it can be difficult to have a conversation with your teenager. This is especially true when teens don’t want to talk at all. Even though it may seem tough, don’t give up on having those conversations that need to happen. Here are some thoughts on how to talk to teens.

Creative Ways to Break the Ice

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has several ideas for parents to initiate conversations when their teens don’t want to talk. These include:

  • Conversation Starters: Perhaps you are both watching a movie or TV show together that is relevant to what you want to talk about to your teen (drug use, teen pregnancy, tobacco, etc.).
  • Teachable Moments: Maybe you have an example from your life that is relevant to the discussion, a relevant news story, or events occurring in the lives of friends or family. Whatever the moment, just make sure not to talk down to your teen.
  • Text Your Teen: Texting your teen can be a way to crack open the door if your teen doesn’t want to talk. Use it as an opportunity to set up a time to meet face-to-face, or send a link to a teachable moment. It can also be a way to encourage your teen or remind them that you are available to listen to them.

Remember to Breathe When Talking

When you talk to teens, it can be easy to get ahead of yourself and start talking faster, talking over your teen, or cutting them off. This may be one reason why your teen doesn’t want to talk to you. Instead, remember to breathe. Being conscious of your breathing can help slow yourself down and help you be less reactionary to your teen.

Listen to Your Teen

Don’t shut down your teen when they do talk, even if you disagree with what he/she is saying. Teenagers, just like all people, want to be heard and be able to express themselves. They will be less likely to talk with you if they believe that you don’t want to listen to them. Listening can be a hard skill to master, but it is possible with practice. Some ways you can practice listening are:

  • Don’t expect. When we expect the next thing that the other person says, we tune them out.
  • When listening, be intentional and focus on what is said. Don’t let your mind wander.
  • Turn off your phone: don’t let your cellular device distract you from the conversation at hand. This also sends the message to your teen that they are more important than email or phone messages.
  • Practice with others: before having that big discussion with your teen, practice your listening skills with a safe partner, so that when the big conversation happens you can be more prepared.

Be Aware of Your Non-Verbal Communication

Communication does not simply happen through the exchange of words. We often say more by the way we hold our bodies or use facial expressions. For a teen who doesn’t want to talk, these can say volumes and may express the opposite of what you want to say.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Are you making eye contact?
  • Is your back slumped over or straight?
  • Are your arms crossed over your chest or open?
  • Do you have a scowl/angry expression on your face?
  • Are you nervously shaking your leg or tapping your fingers?

Figuring out how to talk to teens when they don’t want to talk can seem impossible.

However, with some creativity and practice you can find a way to break through that wall and create some genuine communication with your child.


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