We hear from parents all the time that their teen “doesn’t talk” to them. Parents say when they ask their teen about their day, they hear “fine” but they’re certain that’s not the case. The dagger-like stares, the irritability and short temper say opposite.
It can be so challenging to know when to press on, to help their teen open up, and when to “respect their privacy”… especially when worried about teens making unsafe choices.
Here are a few things parents can consider when honoring their teen’s needs for privacy, without overlooking safety concerns.
- Ignorance is not the same as privacy. When respecting a teen’s privacy, be sure to avoid confusing this with a sense of “I don’t want to know” for fear of finding out something alarming. Parents have a right to know who your teen’s friends are, what they generally discuss, what their interests are, and where they hang out together. It’s all in the delivery of the question.
- Teens often struggle with seeing a ‘middle ground.’ So, it’s either all, or nothing, when they’re asked to share about their day. But, depending on their mood, they could fear that sharing ‘all’ could lead their parent to restrict contact with friends altogether when concerned about safety.
- Teach your teen to summarize their experiences. This is especially hard for highly sensitive teens; being concise is a life skill, and teens might need examples to learn this effectively. For example, if a teen had a 60 minute discussion about a friend’s love interest, and this love interest is flirting with two different people, and they were trying to figure out who he liked more, and dissecting every snap/IG post, your teen could tell you: “Julie and I were talking about how whether or not Aaron is interested in her.”
- Focus on your teen’s interest or skill in the conversation: “It sounds like you’re really trying to help her figure it out” or “You’re a good friend for listening to her.” Don’t try to fix the problem, pry for more details, or teach social skills when focusing on teaching teens to summarize. Small steps towards helping your teen share more will lead to increased trust.
In order to do this without worrying they’re missing something important, it’s helpful for parents to have support. Reach out where we will discuss what works best to help you and your teen learn how to balance privacy and maintaining trust in your relationship.