It’s no secret that teenagers are not always forthcoming with information. It’s nothing to take personally. In fact, it’s developmentally appropriate in most cases. However, teens are often reporting things in the therapy room that they wish their parents knew, yet they hesitate to share with them.
While we he work with teens daily, we didn’t want to make assumptions of why this is. Instead, we headed to Instagram. We used the social media platform asked teens to write to us about why they don’t talk to or share things with their parents. Below are the top three reasons voiced by teens and our advice to parents to combat them.
1. I don’t want to “burden” them, or make them “more stressed” or “worried.”
Your teen has way more empathy and care for you than you would know based on their constant eye-rolls and annoyance of your existence. They are also aware of the immense love you have for them, and know that if they are hurting, so are you. The teens that share this as a reason for omitting information to their parents, are usually the sensitive and perceptive type. They are also often the perfectionist that irrationally believes they should be able to handle anything and everything all by themselves.
What Parents Can Do
- Limiting your child’s exposure to your stress. Instead, share problems and strong emotions with friends or a significant other.
- Reminding your teen that YOU are the parent and YOU can handle BOTH your own feelings and problems, as well as theirs. Even if it takes a village behind you 🙂
- Making statements such as: “If you’re not ok, neither am I;” “I don’t know what I would do if you X,Y,Z.” Such statements can make kids feel responsible for their parent’s feelings. It can also make them feel hopeless, since even their parents don’t know what to do about their problem.
2. They may not understand and shut you down.
“You don’t understand.” This is the age-old phrase recited by teens to their parents. The truth is, parents often really don’t understand, and that’s okay. Parents don’t need to understand to be able to listen and support, which is what they are really asking of you.
What Parents Can Do
- Reflecting and validating their feelings (e.g. “That sounds like a tough situation” or “I’m sorry you’re in so much pain right now”)
- Keeping your cool no matter what information is shared
- Invalidating or minimizing your teen’s feelings or problems (e.g. “It’s no big deal” or “They were a bad friend anyways”)
- Judgement. This includes judgement of their friends; even if your teen is upset with them. Remember, they probably will make up with this friend at some point. Knowing that you do not like the friend will lessen the likelihood that they share things involving that friend in the future.
- *Mentioning that they are a teenager.* Teens already feel like no one takes them seriously because they aren’t yet adults. Reminding them of such is often a trigger for a shutdown.
3. I don’t want to get in trouble.
No one enjoys facing negative consequences. Not a two-year-old.. not an eighty-year-old. Nonetheless, the teenage years are filled with risk taking where negative consequences often ensue. So, how do you convince them they should reveal something they may get in trouble for?
What Parents Can Do
- Letting them know that a consequence will always be harsher if they aren’t upfront or honest about it
- Being open to letting your child explore and make mistakes: as long as they are safe
- Overly harsh punishments where the consequence is not related to the act. We promise you, they will just get better at hiding what they are doing rather than stop doing it if the consequence has no correlation to the act
Vulnerability is not easy, and can be even more difficult for a teen navigating building independence and identify. If you suspect something is going on and your teen isn’t talking, it may be a good time to find a therapist your child can connect to. The therapist can help make sure the teen is safe, as well as improve communication patterns between the two of you.