“I had a hard day, can we talk about it?” said no kid ever, especially teens.
Emotional stonewalling in teenage years is normal and to be expected. Though it can be frustrating for parents, it’s all part of growing up.
But, if you feel like communication has almost stopped altogether, there might be more going on. How do you get kids to start talking again? Start by creating an environment where communication is encouraged and normalized with these ideas:
Lead by example - There’s nothing more powerful to kids than seeing grownups experience a range of emotions and talk through them as well. Try dropping some of your own feelings, celebrations, and coping strategies throughout the day. We don’t have to pretend life is always rainbows and sunshines. If something negative or upsetting happened to you, tell them how you tried to cope. Tell them if it helped or didn’t help. Perhaps you can ask them what they would have done with the negative feelings.
Special time - Set aside some one-on-one time every day to do something with each of your kids that they choose (having a meal, watching a show, going on a walk, etc.). This is also an opportunity to practice active listening without any judgment.
Ask open-ended questions such as “what went well at school today?” or “what was your favorite part of school today?” as opposed to “did you have a good day at school?” Another rule of thumb is asking what questions instead of why questions.
Avoid the quick solve - Encourage problem solving but refrain from jumping in to solve it yourself. Give your teen a chance to develop confidence and competence by asking questions like “what do you think you should do next?” or “how does that make you feel?”
Normalize mistakes. Kids often avoid talking because they worry about disappointing their parents or “getting into trouble” for being honest. Frame mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Validate their feelings. Remember your child doesn’t have the same sage wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. Even if something seems silly or unimportant, validating their concerns or sadness is crucial to building a connection.
Check your headspace before having a conversation with your teen. Being anxious or stressed as an adult may affect the outcome of the interaction.
Seek professional help if needed. Remember you have a team of professionals here at Brightline ready to offer tips and support. Your coach is a chat away!
If you’re reading this, you care, and your teen will recognize and feel that. Don’t blame yourself. At this age, it’s normal for them to open up to their peers first, but knowing you’re there for them is a great place to start. Don’t give up! Visit hellobrightline.com for more strategies on connecting with your teen.