Parents and teenagers need to be able to talk together. Yet in so many families this turns out to be a major problem. Parents feel the teenager won’t listen, and teenagers feel exactly the same: that their parents aren’t listening. One 14 year-old girl put it like this: “My parents expect me to tell them everything, but how can I when all they do is nag? Why haven’t you done this? Why haven’t you done that? That’s all they say.” Why does this breakdown in communication occur? Parents have the sense that the young person really prefers to talk to their friends. They feel that they, the parents, do not matter anymore. They feel rejected and pushed aside. They feel that the young person no longer has any respect for their opinions, and this is hard to take. On the other hand the teenager feels that he or she is still being treated as a child. The parent does not want a conversation, but only wants to dig for information or tell the young person what to do. It is not surprising that these misunderstandings lead to a situation where both sides feel irritated and frustrated with each other. What can we do about this? I have recently written a book entitled: “Why won’t my teenager talk to me?” When I mentioned the title to a group of parents, one of them asked: “Well, what’s the answer then?” Of course there are many different answers, but here are some thoughts.
- Timing is critical. Your teenager won’t always talk at the time that is best for you;
- Your teenager won’t talk about the things he or she considers to be private;
- Interrogation doesn’t work. Your teenager won’t talk if he or she thinks conversation is going to turn into interrogation;
- Your teenager won’t talk if he or she feels you are busy, distracted or likely to be interrupted.