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Why Won’t My Teen Talk To Me?

Why Won't My Teen Talk To Me?

Teen won’t talk to you? 

You’re in the long pickup line at school waiting for your teen.  You finally spot them and smile and wave as they are walking towards your vehicle.  They just look at you with no expression, open the door and get in. Once again, your teen won’t talk to you. 

You try to ask how their day is, or what happened at school, and get little to no response.  The more you press, the more frustrated they get with you.  They may even yell at you for daring to ask them anything.  Eventually, (usually before you’re out of the parking lot) they completely shut down. Like a typical teen, they either pop in their airpods or immerse themselves in their phone on the car ride home. 

When you arrive at home, they stomp off to their room.  It’s possible you may not see them until dinner, or even the next morning.  If this sounds way too familiar, you aren’t alone.  Below are some reasons they may not be as talkative with you as you would like.

They Are Exhausted

Kids have it tough.  They are in school for at least 8 hours a day, with very few breaks.  On top of that, they have about 7-8 different teachers that are filling their brains with new information every single day. Maybe they had a test or quiz that used all of their energy to do well on. 

This doesn’t even include extracurricular stuff. Many of our kids have sports, band, art, choir, orchestra, debate.  The list goes on and on.  It’s a lot.  Your teen may just need some down time to reset their brains before you start firing away with all the questions. 

Try saying something like, “I hope you had a good day at school…but even if you didn’t, I would love to hear about anything that happened today that you feel comfortable sharing.”  This takes the pressure off of them to come up with a response that they think you will be happy with.  

They Are Having A Bad Day 

Not only are kids exhausted by the end of their school day, but a lot can happen during the day that can put them in a bad mood.  No matter how “tough” your kids may act, they are sensitive about everything.  As an educator, I see how kids react to everyday things that, as adults, we may not quite understand.  Kids, especially teens, take almost everything personally. 

In the course of their school day, they may have someone give them a dirty look (or they think that is what they see), realize they forgot to study for a test, their teacher tells them to stop talking, someone bumps into them in the hallway, they get in a fight with a friend, get paired with someone they don’t like for a group project…the list goes on. 

Little things that adults are able to brush off, or not even notice, have a huge effect on teens.  They internalize the things that happen to them during the school day and fixate on them. It is no surprise that by the time they make it home in the afternoon, they are mentally exhausted and sometimes even distraught from playing these scenarios over and over in their head. 

It could be helpful for you to ask them if there is anything that happened at school that you could help them process and think through.  They may not want to tell you, but it might be exactly what they need.  Your child wants to know you are on their side, and if that means they just need space to decompress, give it to them.  

They Worry What You Will Think 

Even though they don’t act like it, teens usually care what you think of them.  Many worry of being judged by you, or even worse, you will be disappointed in them.  Kids want the freedom to tell you all the good stuff happening in their life, but also the not so good stuff.  If you make a habit of having negative reactions to everything your child tells you, they will stop telling you anything at all to protect themselves and their feelings.  

When I questioned a large group of teens recently, their responses were almost all the same.  I wish my parents… 

“would focus more on comforting me instead of being upset all the time.”

“knew I am trying my best and their lectures are not helping me.”

“were not so angry at me all the time.”

“wouldn’t be so harsh.”

“would try not to criticize me all the time.”

As parents, I know we always want the best for our children.  However, we all may need to work on how we react to the things our children tell us.  Perhaps make a habit of not responding right away and spend a little time thinking it through before saying something that we may regret later.  Even though they act tough, teens are very sensitive and internalize things that we may not even realize.

If you are ever worried that what your child is going through is more than just “normal” teenage angst, don’t ignore it.  Never hesitate to reach out to your child’s school counselor or a therapist that specializes in dealing with school aged children and teens.  They have the tools to guide your child in the right direction and get your family back on the right track.  

Karen Hummel,

The Hive Counseling Collective


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