How to Get a Teenager to Talk About Their Feelings

talking to teenager about feelings

One of the most pivotal times in a person’s life is his or her teenage years. This is because teenagers go through an immense amount of change in their lives as they transition from childhood to adulthood. For example, teenagers go through an immense amount of physical change due to puberty.

Teenagers also go through an immense amount of mental and emotional changes. For example, school starts to become more difficult and important for teenagers as their academic performance in high school determines the colleges that they can get into. Some teenagers may even go straight into the workforce after graduating high school.

Friendships and romantic relationships also start to become more serious in one’s teenage years. On top of that, many individuals gain more responsibilities in their teenage years. For example, many people start driving and even get their first car in their teenage years. It’s also not uncommon for a person to get his or her first job as a teenager. It’s also important to note that most people come of age and develop their identities as teenagers.

Because of all the impactful changes that occur in people’s lives in their teenage years, it’s easy for teenagers to become overwhelmed with their emotions. As a result, many parents want to know how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings.

Ways to Get Teenagers to Talk About Their Feelings

Many social and psychological studies suggest that there are different tactics that parents can use to maintain a clear line of communication with their teenage children. Some of the more effective tactics are described below.

1. Be an Active Listener

One way for parents to get their teenage children to express their feelings is to actively listen to them. Active listening means really paying attention to what a person is saying rather than thinking about a response to what a person is saying as he or she talks.

Actively listening also means giving a well-thought-out response to what one says. When a person actively listens to another person, he or she validates the thoughts and ideas that the other person spoke about, regardless of whether or not the listener agrees with everything the initial person said.

Parents who actively listen to their teenage children are better able to give them responses that make the teenagers feel heard and understood. This, in turn, incentivizes teenage children to continue talking to their parents about their feelings.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Parents who want to know how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings should also try to ask their teenagers open-ended questions. Oftentimes, people receive short responses to questions from others because the questions that they ask are rhetorical. For example, people who are asked, “How was your day?” may assume that the person who asked them that question wants a simple, rhetorical response such as, “fine,” as that is what is typically socially expected. 

Thus, a parent who wants to really know what his or her teenage child’s day was like should instead ask an open-ended version of that question such as, “Tell me about your day?” Asking an open-ended question rather than a simple rhetorical one forces the teenager to really explain his or her response and the feelings behind it.

3. Avoid Judgement and Criticism

Parents who want to know how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings should avoid judging or criticizing their teenage children when they talk. No one wants to be judged or criticized when expressing their thoughts and emotions.

In fact, it’s quite common for people, regardless of what age they are, to shut down and not want to express themselves when they feel judged or criticized. Therefore, parents who want their teenage children to continue to express their feelings to them should make sure not to judge or criticize their teenage children when they do so.

4. Talk About Times When You Made Mistakes

Many parents don’t ever want to admit their mistakes and wrongdoings to their children. Pretending to be perfect around teenagers though will only cause them to not want to admit their own mistakes and wrongdoings out of shame.

That’s why it’s important for parents to be vulnerable with their teenage children and admit to them the mistakes that they’ve made in the past. Some teenagers may even avoid making certain future mistakes themselves due to them learning from stories of their parents’ past mistakes.

5. Apologize When Wrong

Another thing that parents often don’t want to do in front of their teenage children is apologize to them. Parents who acknowledge the things that they said or did to their teenage children that were wrong though, show their teenagers that there is value in apologies.

6. Validate Feelings

When teenagers talk to their parents about their feelings, it’s vital that the parents validate the teens’ feelings. Parents can do this by simply saying that the teen isn’t wrong for feeling the way that they do. Parents can also validate their teens’ feelings by saying that they understand where their teens are coming from.

By validating their teens’ feelings, parents help their teens release their pent-up emotions. Parents that validate their teen’s feelings also increase the chances that their teens will continue to express their feelings to them.

7. Spend Time Together

The stronger the bond is between a parent and his or her teenage child, the more likely it is that the teenage child will talk to the parent about his or her feelings. One simple way that parents can build a bond with their teenage children is by spending time with them.

The more time that parents spend with their teenage children in a family integration therapy, the more opportunities that they have to talk to one another. This means more chances for teenagers to express their feelings to their parents.

8. Respect Privacy

People are more likely to express their feelings to people that they feel respect them. Thus, parents who want to know how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings should practice respecting their teens’ privacy.

This means not being a helicopter parent. This also means giving teens enough privacy to have their own life experiences.

9. Model Positivity Rather Than Forcing It on Them

Oftentimes parents will tell their children that they’re being too negative when their children express to them their frustrations. Doing this can cause children, in particular, teenagers, to stop expressing their feelings to their parents though.

Thus, parents who want to know how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings should validate their teens’ frustrations regardless of how negative they may come off. Parents who want their teenage children to be more positive should model positivity themselves rather than tell their teenagers to be more positive.

Children often develop certain behavior patterns due to them being modeled for them by their parents throughout childhood. In other words, children do what their parents do, not what they say. Thus, the best way to get a teenager to be more positive without invalidating his or her feelings is to have the teen’s parents be more positive themselves.

10. Don’t Scold the Teen Like a Little Child

While teenagers aren’t adults yet, they also aren’t children anymore. Therefore, it’s important that parents don’t patronize their teenage children by scolding them as if they are still little kids. When teenagers feel respected by their parents and as if they are being treated properly for their age, they are more likely to express to their parents their feelings.

11. Use Media to Relate to Them

Most teens today are fully engrossed in technology and media. Thus, parents should reference the television shows, movies, and social media videos that their teens like when trying to connect with them. Doing this can open the floodgates of bonding and communication.

12. Show Interest in Their Interests

Another way to get teenagers to talk about their feelings more is to show interest in their interests. For example, if a parent’s teenage daughter is into volleyball, the daughter’s parent should learn about volleyball, go to the daughter’s volleyball games, and even start playing volleyball him or herself recreationally.

That way, the parent and teenager can bond with one another.  Showing interest in a teen’s interests as a parent can also open the door for more conversations. It can even help the parent understand the teen’s references while communicating with one another.

13. Tell Them You Love Them

Love really is what makes the world go around. Thus, the best way to get a teenager to talk about their feelings is to make them feel safe enough to do so by expressing to that teenager your genuine love for him or her.

Get Teenagers to Talk About Their Feelings at Shortridge Academy

get a teenager to talk about their feelings

The Academy at Shortridge is a therapeutic boarding school and behavioral and mental health care center for struggling adolescents. Through a therapeutic, supportive, and educational community, Shortridge Academy partners with students and their families to help the students identify their strengths, develop their skills, prepare for traditional academic environments, and pursue healthy, productive adulthood.

To learn more about how to get a teenager to talk about their feelings, contact Shortridge Academy here today.

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