How to encourage your teen to open up when you know something is bothering them

Trying to get your teen to open up to you can sometimes feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. We all remember what it was like to be a teenager - you feel inclined to keep things to yourself because your parents ‘just won’t understand’. However, this is a lesson that needs to be debunked for every teen!

If you can tell that something is bothering your child and you’re struggling to encourage them to talk to you, then don’t worry - we’re here to help.

Below, we have set out our biggest top tips for all parents with a teenager, to help get that necessary conversation started. Of course, you may need to try out a few of these ideas before one of them sticks, but the important thing is to keep trying - we promise that your teen will appreciate it in the end, as they will be able to get things off their chest:

Keep the conversation light

When initially trying to speak to your teen, we would recommend keeping the conversation light and natural. Don’t dive into the difficult topics straight away, as that will only scare them off. Instead, keep the chatter free-flowing and ask a few open-ended questions, such as, “Are you enjoying that TV show you started the other day?” or “How are things with your friends?”. If the conversation begins in a lighter way, then your teen will begin to feel much more comfortable and open to the idea of letting you in on more serious topics.

Bond with a task 

There is a reason why parents and their children bond when performing tasks together! Spending some quality time together is the perfect way to encourage your teenager to open up to you. Whether it be helping you to cook dinner each night, baking a treat during the weekends, helping them with their homework, or playing a board game together, bonding tasks will subsequently help to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for your teen. Hopefully, your child will eventually feel compelled to open up to you during one of these tasks, without any prompts required.

Treat them as their age

The last thing your teenager wants is for you to talk to them as if they are a toddler. Even if they tell you something that you disapprove of, don’t scold them in the same way that you would have if they were three-years-old and had drawn on the walls with crayons. Instead, let your teen know that you respect them at the age that they are. Whether you like it or not, they’re becoming adults and developing into their own person, and so you should let them lead the way in conversations about their lives and worries.

Validate their feelings

If your teen has just disclosed something to you that is annoying or upsetting them, the number one thing that they need from you is understanding and support. The last thing they want to hear from you is “That’s not so bad”, or, “It could be worse.”  By coming to you and trusting you with this information, your teen is calling out for you to give them support. So, even if their biggest worry isn’t actually big at all, you should act like it is. By all means, give them a bit of perspective and reassure them that everything will be okay, but never dismiss their fears. They have opened up to you for a reason!

Open up about your own childhood 

Although it can often feel cringy to talk about our own teenage years and our past mistakes, sometimes, they can be an insightful window into getting your teen to talk to you. If you tell them stories about your teenage self and reassure them that you have made plenty of wrong judgements in the past, then they will feel less terrified about their own mistakes, and will feel more confident about opening up to you. Plus, swapping stories will allow the two of you to bond, as you divulge the horrors of being a teenager!

Let them know you’re here for them

At the end of the day, all your teen wants to know is that you’ll always be here for them, no matter what. So, tell them that! Although it might not sink in for them initially, if you repeat it enough times, your child will soon begin to realise that you’re not going anywhere and that you will always be here to listen freely, without judgement. Opening up about your deepest and darkest fears is a huge moment for any person, but especially a teenager, and so they need someone they can trust. Let them know that you can be that person for them!

Don’t give up

Lastly, never give up! We know there may be times where it feels like you’re hitting a dead end, and that your teen will never speak to you in confidence. However, we promise you that that day will come eventually - you just have to be persistent! Of course, we’re not saying that you should sit your teenager down and insist that they speak to you. However, the above steps will, in time, make slow and gentle progress, and will eventually convince your child that that conversation is worth having in the end.