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Teens and Talking

It is a rite of passage that teens stop talking to their parents, right?

Not necessarily. It doesn't have to be that way. Teens stop talking to parents for some

pretty simple reasons - even if dealing with those reasons isn't so simple.

The developmental stage that happens with the onset of adolescence is one of emancipation. It is the period of life when the individual moves toward a sense of competence and inter-dependence within relationship. First with parents, and then eventually with others in their adult life.

Unfortunately, many parents and teens end up in the type of conflict that means no one is talking, and relationship becomes strained and difficult. It doesn't have to be that way. While a certain amount of conflict is inevitable in navigating this rite of passage, it doesn't have to be painful or permanently scarring.

To prepare for this season in your adolescent's life, there are things you can do.

  • Learn the developmental milestones appropriate to each stage of your child's life

  • Learn how to ask good questions

  • Learn how to offer validation and empathy without necessarily offering agreement

  • Learn what "unconditional positive regard" is and how it matters when interacting with your teen

  • Take care of yourself (self care)

  • Find the resources and support you need as a parent

There is actually research about this - why teens stop talking to their parents. Turns out, it's not rocket science - it totally makes sense. Teens might stop talking to their parents because...

#4 - They don't want to overwhelm you or add to your stress level. Even if it feels like your teen is oblivious to you, they're aware of your stress and don't want to add to it.

#3 - They don't want you to "fix" it. When your child was 7, or 9, they needed you to go forth and do battle on their behalf. At 12, or 15, they most definitely do NOT want you to contact their teacher or the principal, and they're afraid you'll do exactly that without listening to them.

#2 - They don't want you to get mad. Your teens already know what behaviours you won't tolerate, and they're afraid that your response to something they've done will be unpleasant or painful.

#1 - You won't understand. That is the universal disconnect between adolescents and parents - you might remember feeling like that yourself.

To avoid these pitfalls in your relationship with your adolescent and in family life in general prepare for this stage of development, or, if you're in it already, access the resources and learning that you can to help you navigate it.

Non-violent communication principles are a great place to start. As is developing the skills of validating without agreement, and understanding how allowing natural consequences will help your teen develop a wise mind.


  1. Take care of yourself first

  2. Learn how to listen...really listen

  3. Breathe. Learn how to take a deep breath and offer a response rather than a reaction

  4. Bridge the gap between you and your teen with empathy

There are ways to learn how to deal with the issues that are common to this stage of life. Find resources to prepare yourself and look for a mentor - someone who has already navigated this season successfully. There are also parent support groups to be had - Facebook has a more than a few, and there's Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, and your local library, or Boys & Girls Club.


Susannah-Joy is a trauma therapist, a wife of nearly 40 years, a mother of grown daughters, and 'Oma' to four amazing boys. She practices full time with William & Associates Counselling Services where she is also Director of Clinical Services.

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