Here is what to do when your teenager doesn’t want to talk.
Takeaway: In this post, I explain why your teenager doesn’t want to talk, how to talk to a teenager who doesn’t want to talk, and what to do when your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you.
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You just picked up your teenager from school and you happily ask, “How was your day?” You feel excited to talk with your teenager and have an in-depth conversation. But to your dismay… you get crickets. Nada. You ask again wondering if they heard you or maybe they aren’t paying attention.
Nope, they heard you. Your teenager just doesn’t want to talk to you.
You watch how your teenager is open with your partner or maybe they are super talkative with their friends. As a parent, you think to yourself gosh, my teen barely talks to me. You might be wondering how it got like this. But it’s hard for you to really pinpoint what’s really going on and how to fix it.
You are not alone.
Parents can feel aggravated and confused when they have no clue why their teenager doesn’t want to talk to them. When they were toddlers, they couldn’t stop talking and wanting to share every part of their day with you. Then, your child turns into a teenager and it’s like pulling teeth and walking on a tightrope just to get your teen to open up. Parents feel worried when they have no idea how their teen is feeling, what’s going on in their life, who they are, and how to help if they are struggling.
Teenagers are starting to recognize that they want to do their own thing but they still need their parents at the same time. It’s hard for teens to understand how to balance independence and connecting with their parents. In the midst of that, teenagers are choosing not to talk about their feelings, experiences, or their daily happenings. This is their right and power to exercise.
There are several reasons why your teenager doesn’t want to talk. The explanations can range from them not knowing how to communicate what they are feeling to feeling hurt and unsafe to disclose information to their parents to avoiding feelings of rejection or disappointment all together.
In this article, I am going to go over the reasons why your teenager chooses not to talk and specific things you can do and say to your teenager so they can feel more comfortable and trusting with talking to you.
Why Your Teenager Doesn’t Want to Talk
Becoming aware and pinpointing why your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you can help you navigate on how to move forward with making adjustments.
Here are ten reasons why your teenager doesn’t want to talk:
1. Difficulty putting their feelings and emotions into words:
Expressing your emotions and needs is not an easy task. It takes practice and experience with identifying your emotions, figuring out your needs and what you want from others, and expressing yourself appropriately. Not only do adults have a tough time doing this, but I think adults expect teenagers to get it right. A simple reason why your teenager doesn’t want to talk is because maybe they don’t know how to say it nor express it.
2. Feeling anxious and stressed:
Teenagers can feel overwhelmed and stressed with academic demands, relationship disruptions and conflict, and misunderstandings that have happened throughout the day. When your teen comes home from school, sometimes their first inclination is to self-soothe and to take a break from the day’s stress. One coping skill your teenager might gravitate towards is silence. Sitting in silence and not having to talk might be the best remedy to stress and teenager anxiety .
3. Embarrassed to discuss their challenges or struggles:
Some teens might feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for advice or support. The act of “struggling” emotionally or with solving a problem might be seen as weak or a sense of inadequacy. Teenagers might be reluctant in talking with their parents because they have the mentality, “I should be capable” of dealing with this on my own.
4. Don’t know how to ask for help:
As a teen therapist and parent coach, one of the top questions I ask my teen clients during the first session is “What would you like to work on in therapy?” or “How can I help you?” A majority of the teenagers respond with “I don’t know” or “all I know is I just don’t want to feel like this anymore.” Some teenagers don’t know how to ask for help nor know specifically what they need help with. A possible reason your teenager isn’t wanting to talk to you is because they don’t know how to ask for help or support from you.
5. Afraid to disappoint others especially you:
Your teenager’s biggest fear could be that they might let you down. One of the toughest things for a teenager is to go to their parents when they have made a mistake or a poor choice. Seeing, hearing, and feeling the disappointment from you or someone they care about is a good reason why teenagers don’t want to talk.
6. Predicting a negative reaction or response by you:
Most teenagers will predict how their parents will respond to them when they want to assert themselves, ask for something, speak their opinion, or express their feelings. If your responses are typically led with criticism, yelling, judgment, or punishment then, your teenager will notice that being silent will lead to less consequences than talking.
7. Too many questions:
Another logical reason why your teenager doesn’t want to talk could be they don’t want to be interrogated. Maybe in past experiences when your teen has been open with you, they were met with loads of questions. Too many questions can deter your teenager from talking. To a teenager, being bombarded with questions can make them feel suspect or untrustworthy.
8. They feel You don’t trust them:
For some teenagers, they choose not to talk because they feel their parents don’t trust them. Talking includes explaining their perspective, being vulnerable, proving their case, clarifying a situation, and asking for support. If parents think the worst about their teenager or simply don’t believe them when your teenager attempts to voice their perspective, your teen might think, “Why bother to talk? They don’t trust me anyhow.”
9. You make it about you:
Lastly, teenagers are keen when the focus of the conversation is switched from themselves to their parents. If your teenager attempts to talk to you and you answer them by making it about you instead of staying on topic about them, then they will less likely want to continue talking to you. It’s a big deal when your teenager decides to talk and open up to you, stay in the moment and give them space to connect with you.
How to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You
Now that you know why your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you, you are probably wondering, “Okay how do I get my teenager to talk to me?”
You can’t force your teenager to talk to you. Your teen is using silence as a means of power and control. In the midst of them figuring out boundaries and limits, they are exercising their power by not talking to you. What you do have control over is creating an environment where they feel safe, comfortable, and willing to talk to you.
Here is how to get your teenager to talk to you:
Be available and have an “open door policy”
If your teenager is around you and you are consistently on your phone, doing work, or “busy,” then your teenager will not feel inclined to strike up a conversation with you. They are already struggling with talking to you and you appearing consistently busy will only work against you. Being available might look like not answering phone calls while you are in the car with them or leaving your bedroom door open an hour before bedtime so they know they can come in to ask you a question.
Have a warm and welcoming presence around them
One of the biggest turnoffs for teenagers is when they can feel the stress and negative energy coming from their parents. If your teenager notices your bad mood, work stress, or irritation then your teenager will utilize your negativity to validate their reason for not talking. When you use a warm and welcoming presence around them, you are giving yourself a chance for your teen to evaluate if it’s a good idea to talk to you or not.
Just because your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you doesn’t mean for you to not talk to them. Take notice and point out good deeds your teenager is doing. Some simple ways to do this is figure out what your teenager cares about and praise them for it. For example, if your teenager works hard at school, praise them by saying, “I see you working hard at studying and staying on top of your assignments. I love that you value commitment and a good work ethic.”
What to Do When Your Teenager Doesn’t Want to Talk to You
It can feel helpless and defeating when your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you. Even though your teenager chooses not to talk to you, in their hearts your teen really wants to have a connection and a positive relationship with you. You might be thinking, “Should I back off and leave them alone?”
Your teenager doesn’t want you to stop trying to have a relationship with them. Remember your teen is struggling with how to navigate what they are going through and how to be closer to you.
Here are 5 things on what to do when your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you:
1. Communicate on their level:
It’s important to identify what type of communication (email, text, written notes, in person, memes, emojis, or pictures) they feel most comfortable with. Take note on how they communicate with their friends and peers. When they do decide to talk to you, they will probably feel most safe and open with the type of communication they use daily.
2. Inquire about the disconnection:
The first thing you can do is to warmly bring it up to them. Let them know you notice they have been more quiet than usual and you are wondering if there's something on their mind. If your teen chooses not to divulge or they say “Nothing, I am fine”, then let them know you are available to talk if something comes to mind.
3. Highlight the benefits of talking about feelings and emotions
When we talk about our feelings, we are able to identify our needs, solve problems and conflict, figure out how to regulate, and learn to form better relationships with ourselves and others. Highlighting these benefits can help your teenager decide whether they would like to resolve conflict or verbalize their feelings.
4. Repair the relationship
Let your teenager know what you want. You want to have an open, safe, and positive relationship with your teen. You want to be able to connect with them, give them appropriate space, and also, be someone they can go to while they navigate life. Ask them how you can repair the relationship and what you can do so they feel safe and comfortable with talking with you.
IF your teenager decides at this moment to be open and discuss their hurt and painful feelings, your number one focus is to stay calm, reflect their feelings back, and validate their perspective.
Take this as a sign your teenager is wanting to repair the relationship and connect with you. In doing so, they need to get their hurt feelings out and communicate why they chose not to talk to you. It will be important for you to reflect on the conflict, take responsibility for your part, and say I’m sorry.
5. Think back to when you were a teenager
One of the most helpful things parents of teenagers can do is to reflect on what it was like to be a teen. Putting yourself in your teenager’s shoes can increase empathy for your teen. Here are some questions to ponder: What did you need from your parents? What did your parents do to make you feel safe or unsafe to talk too? Were you open, honest, and vulnerable with your parents? Having empathy for your teenager will help you understand the loneliness that comes with not talking with you.
You can’t force your teenager to talk to you. You can remind yourself to focus on what you do have control over.
All parents can do is figure out why your teen is choosing not to talk to you, create a positive and open environment for them, and use effective communication skills to try and resolve the disconnection.
Even though your teenager is choosing not to talk to you doesn’t mean it will last forever. Decide today to work on being the parent you want to be. The more you work on yourself regarding communication skills, stress level, being positive and supportive, and initiating repair the more your teen will have the courage to begin taking steps to talking with you.
Need extra support for you or your teenager:
At Ashley Hudson Therapy, I help teens develop effective communication skills so they can build self-esteem and feel comfortable in expressing themselves with friends and family. If you are in the state of California, schedule a free consultation today.
In addition, I offer parent coaching through an online parenting course. I help parents gain confidence and the skills to connect with their teenager and nurture a lifelong relationship with them. Check it out The Connected Parent here!
If you are looking for a sneak peek of the parenting program, check out The Connection Mini Course for $27. You get 4 lessons on how to ignite connection fast with your teenager in less than 1 hour for a fraction of the cost. Get Access Today for Just $27!