How To Get Through To Your Teenager
Is your adolescent child refusing to talk to you? Does he avert his eyes or walk out of the room when you try to get his attention? If so, this is a common side effect of growing up, and will pass with time. But you will need to get through to him in the meantime, to preserve the bond between you and support him as necessary, and also for practical reasons, like finding out if he's going to be around for dinner.
The strategies outlined below will help you break down the barriers your teenager has put up, and get communication flowing again. Pick the suggestions that seem best suited to your circumstances, either one at a time, or as dual approaches.
Table of Contents
When addressing your estranged young person, keep to impersonal, non-judgemental topics, and refrain from dropping hints at any more sensitive issues through your words or manner. Just carry on as normal, with the focus on practical matters like what he wants to eat or whether he needs a lift home from wherever he's going. This avoidance of potentially painful personal topics will help him to relax, and hopefully, open up a little.
If conversation with your teenager seems too difficult, try texting or emailing him instead. He may feel more comfortable being one step removed from direct chat, and more at home clicking his reply than saying it. This method also gives him time to think before answering. A hand-jotted note may serve equally well, but keep it short and informal. The back of an envelope would look less intimidating than a sheet of headed writing paper, for instance. If he drops a message back, recognize this as a step forward. His response signals approval of the format, so keep to it for now.
Adolescence is a time of turbulent emotions and self-doubt, and these elements are probably behind his strange behavior. He may be in need of reassurance, despite his cool image, so demonstrate your support and respect in subtle ways. Display photographs of him, and ask him for a new one, no matter whether or not you like his latest hair style. Give him a pat on the back when he departs or returns, and bring him an energizing snack as he starts his homework. Show that you're glad of his company and proud of his achievements.
Show appreciation of the slightest kind gesture your sulky teen may give, even if he's just passing you the salt at dinner. If he agrees to do a chore for you, express your gratitude, and if you find out of any achievement of his, make sure to congratulate him warmly. If he volunteers a joke, be sure to laugh, and if he displays knowledge, shrewd judgement, or any other quality, let him see that you're impressed.
If communication between you and your teenager grinds to a hopeless halt, ask a friend or relative with whom he's more relaxed to act as an intermediary. This can be an unacknowledged, informal role, and may enable your youngster to loosen up and vent his thoughts and feelings.
Your anxiety about your teen's silence may be driving him deeper into it. Give him space to step back out without losing face. Put your concerns to one side for a week or two and relax; you may find he relaxes too. Even if he doesn't, you'll benefit from the rest and feel more able to endure the situation afterwards.
When your growing child is ready, he will start lowering the barriers, gradually returning to his old self -- or nearly. He won't be quite the same, because he will have matured in the interim and become less a child than an adult, so take a step back to admire the fine, young person he has become!