The teen years can be hard on family relationships. Your once adorable five-year-old who used to laugh and play with you has turned into a sullen 14-year-old who stays in his room playing video games and responds with only one-word answers or grunts.
As children become teenagers, many of them slowly stop talking to their parents. But fret not! This is a normal part of adolescence. Your teen is having a tough time moving from childhood to adulthood and dealing with so many new developments including hormonal changes, physical changes, and peer pressure.
Why do they stop talking?
There are numerous reasons why your teenager may be retreating into his or her own shell. They probably know you better than you think and can sense when you’re stressed or have too much on your plate. Rather than add to your problems, they start to keep things inside because they don’t want to worry you.
They may also be afraid that you will lose your cool. They have had more than a decade learning what kind of behaviour you won’t tolerate, and they don’t want to be the ones to tell you they are about to do something or have done something wrong.
There’s also a high chance they think you won’t understand what they are going through. Imagine them wanting to get a tattoo or a piercing. Most parents and teens would have a tough time having a calm, rational conversation about such topics, so teens just evade the conversation altogether.
Things you might be doing wrong
Parents tend to turn every subject into a lecture or ask too many questions, making teens feel like they are being cornered. You may also make the mistake of not validating your teen’s feelings, assuming that your teen is just being overdramatic or even ridiculous for feeling a certain way. Instead of dismissing them, let them know that it’s okay to feel whatever it is they are feeling, so they feel understood and are comfortable enough to speak to you.
What can you do?
- Try to have positive interactions with your teen
- Make it a point to share things about your own life
- If you open up, your teen is more likely to do the same
- Engage with your teen in activities you both enjoy
- Sit down to have meals with your teen
- Talk to your teen like an adult, and with respect
If your teenager speaks to no one, spends all the time in the bedroom with the door closed, has withdrawn from friends, has lost interest in activities that once gave him or her pleasure, or has grown increasingly isolated, this may be outside the realm of normal teenage development. In such cases, try to find out whether your teen has undergone some kind of trauma (e.g. bullying) or is abusing drugs or alcohol.
In the end, teens need their own space but they also need their parents. So, while your teen is doing the work of distancing themselves away, you will have to work just as hard to carefully bridge the gap! This way, you will continue to have a healthy, positive relationship with your teen – one that is based on love, communication and respect.