teen refuses to talk

How to Talk to a Teen Who Refuses to Talk

It’s no secret that the teenage years are tough. It can feel like the child that once depended on you for just about everything now wants just about nothing to do with you.


Parenting through the teenage years can feel like a foreign territory, regardless of how many children you’ve raised. You can rest assured though, knowing that you are not alone in this struggle. The rebellious acts, the eye rolling, the door slamming, and the silent treatments are common amongst many adolescents growing into their teenage selves. If conversing with your teen feels more like pulling teeth, you might benefit from these tips to better your communication.

Avoid “yes” or “no” questions

Asking your perpetually silent teen questions like  “Did you have a good day at school?” will probably just elicit a nod, grunt, “yes” or “no” response. Instead, work on tailoring your questions so that you receive a more thorough response. For instance, you will probably get more out of “What did your coach have you working on in practice today?” than a simple “How was practice?”

Refrain from judgment

Oftentimes teens are resistant to talking with their parents because they worry that they’ll be met with a negative response. It’s okay to disapprove of your teen’s actions but not who they are as a person – this will only create a further division between you. It’s also important that you try keeping your critical talks to a minimum. If every conversation you have with your teen involves criticism, they will put a negative connotation on all of your conversations. Regarding all of your interactions as negative will make your teen hesitant to open up to you in the future.

Find common ground

Does it feel like you’ve done all the “right” things? Used every possible tool to get your teen to talk? Yet they still won’t open up to you? Instead of focusing solely on the conversation, try engaging in an activity together. Take them to their favorite store, a movie of their choice, or anything you know they enjoy. By simply spending time together, you’ll feel more connected to your teen. The more time you spend together, the more you’ll get in tune with your teen’s new interests; this can then spark conversation down the road.

Converse during activities

While you might want to sit down with your teen over a cup of coffee and have an in-depth life discussion, this is not the way your teen wants to engage with you. Instead of trying to force conversation during silence, find a more appropriate time to spark up a discussion. Meal times, cooking time, and drive times are all good opportunities to initiate a conversation. Your teen will feel more comfortable chatting when they’re engaged in something else as well because your conversation will appear natural instead of forced.

Listen well

When you talk with your teenager, it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street. It may take a while for your teen to open up to you, but when they do, be prepared to listen. If they come home from school in a bad mood, for instance, you might later discover it’s because they performed poorly on a test. Instead of chastising them, use this as an opportunity to have an open conversation. Share your opinion and give them the opportunity to share theirs as well. If you broach the conversation as a lecture, they’ll begin to shut down and fall back into their angsty teen behaviors.


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