It can be almost impossible to get my teenaged boy to talk to me. Conversations with him typically consist of questions and concerns from me and then nothing but short answers from him. I hear a lot of “fine” and “okay” when I ask him how he is feeling or how his day went. It’s like pulling teeth to get him to talk about anything important.
What is sad is that there was a time, not too long ago, that my son wouldn’t stop talking to me. He would ramble on for what seemed like hours when he came home from school or a playdate. I was his best friend and confident! However, that flow of information came to a halt practically overnight. So what can you do about it when it happens to you and your son?
What is normal for teen boys?
Dr. Cara Natterson is a pediatrician and the author of a book about raising boys. She states that it is often perfectly normal for teenaged boys to become quiet with their parents. Some even withdraw. Around the age of 12, most children begin to value the opinions of their friends over their parents. Parents should remember that most teenagers do still care about what they think, but it isn’t at the same level as when they were young. That’s normal.
When I talked to my 17-year-old son about sharing his life with me and why it is so hard, he told me that he is learning to become independent. He believes that teenagers should be given the space and freedom to grow, even when they still live in the same house.
Getting them to open up
So how do you get your teenaged son to open up to you? Dr. Natterson recommends creating a scenario where neither of you have to make eye contact. Go for a drive or a walk. Teenagers feel like they are on the spot when you sit face-to-face for a conversation.
Another somewhat easy way to get teens to open up is to text them. Some teenagers find it easier to text their parents about their feelings and concerns. Wait until they are sitting in their room or are relaxed in the living room before you try to start a conversation.
Now that you know when to start a conversation, what do you say to get the conversation flowing? Dr. Natterson suggests using a teachable moment when you can. For example, if you see a commercial on television for vaping, ask your son if he knows what they are doing and if it has happened around him.
If you have something very important and personal to talk about, make sure that there are no distractions of any kind. That also goes for parents! You can’t have a meaningful conversation with your teenager if your phone keeps distracting you.
My son also said that it is important for parents to make an effort with their child. Understand where they are coming from. Show that you are listening and that you care about their feelings. Don’t dismiss what they are feeling or tell them they shouldn’t feel that way. Everyone, even teens, have valid feelings and thoughts that should be heard.
You don’t want your son to hold everything in. Even if you think your teenager is okay and is just quiet, there may be many things on his mind at the moment. While it can be difficult, have some patience and try different ways to get your teenaged son to open up. When he sees that he can trust you, the conversation will start flowing again.