Teenagers can often withdraw and keep things to themselves. This can be unsettling for parents. We worry about what is going on with them if they aren’t sharing with us. Here are some tips that I found worked when our kids were teens:
1. Meet them where they are.
For example, one of our sons loved to watch the TV show Friends. He had been keeping to himself a lot and so one day, I got a bag of candy and asked if I could watch the show with him, then I just listened. I was amazed as he talked to me about camera angles and character/plot development. He was in theater in high school and I had no idea he knew all this stuff. This opened the way to more communication on a variety of topics.
2. Don’t “freak out”.
I had to learn to not "freak out" when our teens were talking about anything that wasn't in line with what I thought they should be doing or thinking. This was one of the kid’s terms, by the way, for any increase in emotion on my part. I learned to hold my emotions for his benefit. Janice Shaw LMFT used to say “Love is the ability to tolerate your own emotions for the benefit of your loved one’s growth and development.” Good counsel.
I found that my sons talked more if we were driving in the car. I heard somewhere that men in general do better if there is not direct eye contact. So I would take one of them with me when I had to drive somewhere, preferably longer distances.
4. Be at the crossroads.
I found it important to be up and awake with a snack when they came in from a late-night activity or date. They were more likely to talk at these crossroads than the next morning. It meant a sacrifice of sleep on my part, and I didn't do it all the time, but it was often worth it when I did.
5. Don't interrogate.
Kids pick up pretty quickly when we are fishing for information. If I just stayed quiet long enough, they eventually told me what they need to.
I hope these tips help you to keep the channels of communication open in your families.