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How to Get Your Teen Daughter to Open Up

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

How many times have you asked your teen daughter a question and she responds with a shrug or a flat, one-word answer, like “fine”?   

 

Maybe you have a strong hunch something is going on but your teen is not sharing. Instead, she goes to her room, closes the door, and remains glued to her phone, fervently exchanging messages with her peers.  

 

You might find yourself wondering, Why is she shutting me out?  

 

I have been a teen life coach for over a decade and during that time girls have confided in me. They have opened up to me about romance, intimacy, experimentation, fears, worries, and sadness. Very often, they say these are things they can’t tell their parents, and there are several reasons why.

 

They don’t know how.  

Teens are still developing emotional intelligence and learning how to communicate their feelings, questions, and experiences, especially with their parents.  More often than not, they find it easier to say nothing or talk with someone else.  Part of this relates to the fear of being misunderstood, judged, or controlled, but most of the time, the desire to open up and receive your encouragement is there but the confidence in knowing how is lacking. 

 

They expect an undesirable outcome. 

Teens will avoid talking with their parents when they believe their parents will interfere or try to control their next steps.  The more you tell your teenager what she should do, how she should feel, or what she should think, the more she will avoid talking with you. 

 

They want to protect you. 

Teens know that you are sensitive to their emotional experiences and they don’t want to upset you. When they worry you will be hurt, disappointed, or saddened by their news, they will hold back from sharing because they don’t want to let you down. 

 

They don’t want to answer questions. 

As a general rule, teens don’t like being asked a lot of questions. Too many questions can feel invasive and overwhelming, which is exactly what they want to avoid, especially when feeling vulnerable.  

 

They think you don’t listen and won’t understand. 

This is the most common reason teens don’t open up to their parents and it stems from two beliefs (1) You typically turn a conversation about her into something about you or (2) You dismiss her feelings by saying things like, “This is just a phase. You’ll get over it.” In addition, when you ask too many questions, your teen develops a belief that you are not really listening.  

 

Understanding why your teen daughter won’t open up to you is the first step to supporting her in opening up.  Think about which of these beliefs might be holding her back from confiding in you and consider which steps you can take to turn things around.  

 

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10 Steps to Help Your Teen Daughter to Open Up: 

 

    1. Adopt parenting practices that promote your teen’s Emotional Intelligence. Click here for suggestions. 
    2. Control your reactions.  Try to remain calm and neutral. If your teen is opening up about something that triggers you, take a deep breath and remind yourself your job at that moment is to listen and love your teen. 
    3. Ask your teen daughter if she would like your advice or help before giving it. This will demonstrate profound respect and send the message you see her as capable and competent. 
    4. Listen more than you talk. Listening is the key to understanding so practice listening to understand your teen’s experiences.  As she shares, reflect on the question: What is it like to be her? 
    5. Show your teen you are listening to understand by saying: What I hear you saying is… and you feel… Is that right?
    6. Avoid starting sentences with “When I was a teen…”  Although you might be trying to relate to your teen’s experience, this will make her think you’re taking the focus off her and just want to talk about yourself. 
    7. Don’t talk with your friends about what your teen is going through.  Believe it or not, this almost always gets back to your teen and destroys trust. 
    8. Instead of judging or criticizing, offer validation and reassurance. Tell your teen daughter that her feelings are valid and offer her reassurance that she can get through this and you have her back, no matter what. 
    9. Be mindful of your questions.   It’s OK to be curious and want to know more, but instead of asking question after question, try this helpful alternative: Tell me more about… 
    10. Thank your teen for trusting you.  

 

You can’t force your teenager to confide in you but you can create an environment where she feels safe and comfortable.  By responding to her in ways that encourage open, honest communication and show her you get it, she will become willing to turn to you.  

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