Tips for Talking with Teens

Teens aren’t always easy to talk to. They can be withdrawn, easily triggered, angry, or simply confused. Perhaps you’ve tried to talk to your teen about pressing concerns in the past and it wasn’t effective. Perhaps your teen nodded and pretended to listen but then right back to their old behaviors.


There aren’t any easy answers, but here are some tips for having an effective talk with your adolescent:


First, you should know that the effectiveness of your conversation depends heavily upon the quality of how you and your teen are relating. If you are doing all the talking and your teen is essentially saying on this inside, “yeah, yeah, I’ve heard this before”, then likely nothing will change. Instead of speaking to a teen as though he or she is the child and you are the adult, connect with that adolescent as though he or she is another adult. This might be hard at first because you might still see your teen as your little one. However, the truth is that he or she is entering adulthood and psychologically that’s what your teen is striving for. Speaking to your teen as though he or she is an adult will inspire in them more respect for you because you’re demonstrating more respect for them.


Most adolescents are very protective of their dignity and deepening sense of self. When teens hear language that sounds phony, condescending, or patronizing, it tends to invoke a lack of trust, anxiety, defensiveness, and even anger. For this reason, they can be unforgiving with adults who talk down to them, who play the “I know more than you” card, and who attempt to have some advantage over them.


Here are some tips to consider when conversing with a teen:

  1. Avoid accusations or expressing your authority. Instead, lovingly and openly express your concern.
  2. Use natural, everyday language. This will facilitate a less threatening conversation and help your teen open up. The stronger the attempts to build rapport and the more obvious those attempts are, the more likely a teen will react. Instead, a natural, easy going approach in which you are being authentic allows for true engagement
  3. Show respect for your teen. Treating an adolescent with respect and maturity facilitates him or her rising to the way in which he or she is being seen.
  4. Develop trust by protecting a teen’s dignity. Rather than pointing out any inconsistencies you hear in a teen’s stories – and because they are still finding themselves, inconsistencies might easily be heard – protect their developing sense of self.
  5. Let your teen know that you care. This can ease the feeling of loneliness that your adolescent might be experiencing if indeed he or she is facing a problem. Communicate that you will accompany your child each step of the way.
  6. Don’t try to have “the talk”. Instead of setting aside time to have a direct one on one with your teen, use every day moments as an opportunity to teach or communicate what you’d like. Sometimes the pressure of having a “talk” makes a teen immediately turn away.


These are some tips to make talking with your teen an easier experience. The primary point here is that the way you relate to your teen makes all the difference.