Being able to tune in to what your teenagers needs will help break the silence in your relationship.

Your teenager has always been moody.  It seems like this is just expected to be a part of this passage into adolescence.  However, it can feel confusing to suddenly notice things seem even more frustrating as your teen is now hardly talking to you at all.   

You may find yourself re-thinking things you’ve said or done that may have caused your teen to be pulling back and feeling distant.  These thoughts can sound like this:

  • Was it something I did?
  • Did I say the wrong thing?
  • Have I not done enough? 

Maybe it isn’t one thing that you said or did that has caused your teen to be withdrawing. 

It’s important to remember that teens are going through a lot of changes.  They are beginning to develop their own sense of self, which includes a natural tendency of withdraw in their quest for autonomy.  

Yet, the response of silence and withdrawal in your teen may also be linked to a natural human tendency for self protection. This is linked with our natural fight and flight response.  

Withdraw is often a part of our natural defense function that turns on as a way to protect ourselves when some kind of threat or danger is perceived. 

This response is common when something within us senses uncertainty in our ability to support ourselves in the face of difficulties or conflict.  The sense that we may not be have the strength or resources to be able to stand up and win, our internal emotional radar will instead choose to flee as a way to stay safe.  

This silencing or withdrawing comes out of your teenager’s sense of threat of danger to their sense of safety and security.

Your teen’s silence may simply be their way of letting you know that they want to feel safe enough to talk to you.

Your teens silence may be their way of letting you know that there is something they are needing to feel loved and safe. Take their silence as a nudge to access their needs.

It may be that there are some ways you may be talking to your teen that in turn may have your teen closing down and getting quiet.  

Even though it might look like your teenager doesn’t need you or want you around, they do need you.  They need your support and care – and deeply desire to know that you are there for them to provide the care they need for what they are going through.  

Tuning in to your teenagers need to feel heard, valued and supported are essential to giving your teen what they need most.

Take time to hear what your teen has to say.

Your teenager is going through a lot of self development and exploration. Teens are still in the developing stages and their choices and interests may at times seem very confusing to you, yet allowing your teen to feel heard is one of their deepest needs. 

A helpful tip:

  • Shift away from responses of problem solving and instead toward that of allowing your teenager to share and express themselves to you. By simply listening and reflecting what it is you are hearing you teen is sharing with you will go a long way in creating a space for them to continue to develop a sense of safety and openness.

Allow your teen to feel valued for who they are.

Your teenager is learning to explore and express themselves in the world.  All the while, they are asking a deeper question of “Is who I am ok?”  One of the biggest ways they are looking to have this answered is within their sense of their own value and importance within their closest relationships. 

A helpful tip here:

  • Interacting with your teenager in a way that continually expresses and reflects their value and importance to you and within the family will create a foundation for this space of unconditional value and acceptance. Take time to see and express the value that they hold will go far in allowing your teen to experience the belonging they need most.

Show your teen endless support!

Teenagers may no longer needing care and support that they have needed throughout their earlier stages of life, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still need to sense the same feeling of support from you.

There is a deep desire to know that you are there for them, no matter what. 

This includes the times when they make mistakes or share things that don’t align with your rules or values.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t also help to provide boundaries or enforce important areas for their safety, but helping to slow down your immediate response to guide or lecture and simply being willing to listen and support your teen will allow your teen to sense that you are there for them and on their side, no matter what!

A helpful tip:

  • Offering space for your teen to talk about hard things, and giving time to just listen and share that you understand and care about what they are going through will go a long way in helping your teenager feel supported, safe and deeply cared for.  
Kristi Wollbrink
Kristi Wollbrink

I help teens and couples decrease anxiety in order to find meaningful connection