Skip to content

How Do I Get My Teen to Open Up?

The number one question parents ask is: How do I get my teen to open up? Teens are constantly processing the experiences and information they come across each day. Yet many parents rarely get to hear the thoughts going on in their teen’s head! In this article, I’ll share how parents can build a relationship that fosters openness and communication.


How Parents Can Get Teens to Open Up
Parents want teens to open up, but teens may stay silent if they don’t know what to say, are afraid to be judged, worry that it may be used against them, or perhaps think they will just say something stupid. It’s up to Mom and Dad to create an atmosphere where teens feel safe to share.


1. Share your struggles, Mom and Dad. No one wants to share their deepest fears and feelings with someone who can’t relate. Keep in mind that when you share your struggles, you are admitting that you are not perfect. Sharing your imperfections communicates that it’s okay for for your teen to be imperfect too. By the time your child becomes a teen, they know that this is not a perfect world. Pretending things are perfect will backfire. Wise parents will create an atmosphere that allows for mistakes and struggles. Of course you should use discretion about sharing your personal struggles. Don’t give teens information they are not ready to handle. Instead, share times when you struggled and were able to overcome life’s challenges.


2. Identify the problem in your relationship. Identifying the problem will help you know what to change to reconnect with your teen. To understand why your teen won’t open up, ask yourself some questions: Does my teen feel “controlled” by me? Does my teen feel like I talk too much? Or does she feel like I don’t listen? If your teens feel like you are always criticizing or lecturing, they will not want to share their struggles with you. If you’re not sure what’s wrong with your communication, ask your teen what you can do to make him more comfortable to share. Listen to what he’s telling you and make changes when appropriate.


3. If What You Are Doing Is Not Working—Change Things Up! Teens have their own interests and quirks. What worked for one teen, may not work for another. Parents should be willing to try new things to create a better relationship with each teen. For example, if your child is a risk taker, do some kind of adventure together. If your child is introverted, find a quiet thing to do together that doesn’t necessitate too much talking. If your child is a reader, let him recommend a book to you, then read it and talk about it together. After you’ve tried a few new strategies, if your teen is still unwilling to open up, or if your teen is expressing anger all the time, you might want to see a counselor together.


4. Share Your Desire to Engage With Your Teen. You may think it’s obvious that you love your teen and want to have a closer relationship with him, but it isn’t necessarily obvious to your teen. I urge parents all the time to tell their teens over and over how much they are loved and to take time to connect. Life is busy and it’s easy to get used to the silence. If you and your teen are out of practice of connecting, tell your teen that you want to talk. Ask open-ended questions that let him share his heart. Let them speak, let them get it out, and don’t judge them. If you haven’t said it in a while, tell your teen that there’s nothing they can do to make you love them more and nothing they can do to make you love them less.


Hey moms and dads … here’s a quick list to engaging with your teen. Let them be the smartest person in the room for a change. Eliminate the lectures, pick your battles wisely, and loosen up on some of the rules as they get older. Ask questions that go somewhere. Respect their need for privacy. Spend time together doing something they want to do. Know their world, lighten up a bit, and treat them like an adult. Spend more time listening than talking. It will only work if you truly have an interest in the condition of their heart more than the condition of their room or how good their grades are. Your genuine, authentic, selfless mindset will set the stage for them to be able to engage with you in those conversations that you long to have. Your conversation has more to do with the atmosphere you create than the words you speak.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.