How to get a teenager to open up

For days, I had been trying to find out a little about my son Garret’s social life. He seemed totally annoyed by my efforts. I would go into his room as he lie in bed starting at his phone screen and try to make conversation. “How are things going?” I would ask. “Good” he would respond. That one word answer was only if he wasn’t too busy completely ignoring me. My effort to get my teenager to open up just wasn’t working.

By following my son on social media, I get a glimpse of what his is up to and who he is spending time with, but it doesn’t replace a real conversation. #Iwanttotalk #teenagersaredifficult

Then, last weekend, my son wanted to leave a party because he was tired. His friends wanted to stay. So, he texted me to ask if I could pick him up. When I arrived, he got into my car and didn’t say anything. I decided to stay silent, too, instead of my usual approach of asking a bunch of questions.

Within minutes, my son began having a heart to heart with me about the different directions his friends were taking and how he felt about it. He talked to me about who was a “real friend” and why. I stayed quiet and listened. Really listened. Occasionally I would ask a question but I did so in a follow-up way rather than a prodding or prying way.

In that moment, I realized how I miss the “car time” I had with my son before he started driving. With all three of my children I found driving them home from school or to an activity, “car time ” tends to be when they would talk about their day or something on their mind.

Garret, like most teenagers, tends to spend a lot of time in his room, and really doesn’t like when I enter his space and try to have a conversation. The big takeaway for me from my recent experience was that I just need to be patient and be there where and when my son wants to open up and talk. Clearly, that’s going to be on his schedule, not mine. I also realized when teenagers want to talk, it’s best to listen. Just listen. Not ask pummel your teen with questions or give opinions. Just listen.

WebMD says parents need to seize the moment when it comes to communicating with their teens. A spontaneous conversation in the car or at home late at night — any time when you’re not rushed — can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments, says Laurence Steinberg, an expert on adolescence. “I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don’t come up when you expect them to.”

So, when is a good time to get a teenager to open up to you? The answer is…when he or she wants to do it. And that could be when you least expect it.

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