Communicating with your Teenager – Do’s and Don’ts

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“I don’t know how to talk with her anymore.”

“He’s so moody.”

“She doesn’t want to share anything about her life with me like she used to.”

“I can’t get him to say more than ‘My day was fine.’”

Parents frequently call me and report struggles similar to those listed above. They wish they had the ability to transform their relationship back to the way things were before their adolescent began puberty, and they ask me for help.

The reality is that teenagers are supposed to go through this change. They are supposed to start distancing themselves from parents a bit – it is developmentally appropriate. They are undergoing many changes: physically, emotionally, and mentally. During this wonderful time of change, teens:

  • Will want more privacy.
  • Will want more time with friends.
  • Will often change the way they dress, etc.
  • Will experience many physical changes in their bodies.


I have seen many parents attempt to exert higher control during their kids’ teenager years. This is the opposite of what parents want to do. Remember, your home is your teen’s training ground for the world. The interactions you have with your teen are a large contributor to how your teen learns to treat other people. Having a general acceptance that you may talk less with your teen during this time in their life will save you some aches and pains. This isn’t personal. They don’t love you less. Their priorities are shifting as they are learning to be adults.

The best way to stay connected with your teen (The Do’s):

  • Respect their privacy. They may go to war with you if you don’t.
  • Listen when your teen talks. Consider their opinion a valuable one.
  • Be a good listener. Reserve judgement and keep some of your opinions to yourself if you want them to talk with you again.
  • Accept your teen’s feelings. Don’t try to change their experiences; just offer support.
  • Apologize when you’re wrong.
The Don’ts of communicating with teens:
  • Nag, preach, lecture. They don’t listen for long and it just hurts their feelings and frustrates you further.
  • Use guilt and/or shame as a parenting strategy. It doesn’t work.
  • Use a lot of “shoulds.” This is one way of using guilt/shame. This can be very damaging.
  • Share with others personal things your teen has shared with you (unless, of course, your teen is in danger, etc.).
  • Hound them with questions when your teen has broken a home rule, etc. Know when you can talk with your teen and respect this boundary.


Again, I don’t have a canned strategy for talking with teens. Some teens and parents will go to family therapy to work on applying these strategies, which is often a good idea. Other times these tips are enough. Good luck!

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