What to Do if Your Adolescent Child Won't Speak to You

If your adolescent child won't speak to you, you may feel offended, but respect and understanding will be the key to restoring communication.
What to Do if Your Adolescent Child Won't Speak to You

Last update: 02 August, 2022

Being a teenager is a challenge, but being a parent to one of them isn’t an easy task either. On multiple occasions, your children will come home visibly upset, angry, or sad, and they’ll flatly refuse to share with you what’s worrying them. It’s even possible that on more than one occasion, they won’t speak to you at all. If you’re asking yourself “why isn’t my teenager talking to me?”, today we’re going to help you clarify this situation.

First of all, you need to remember that it’s not a personal affront. Most of the time, silence will be more related to your child’s own emotions than to something you’ve said or done. For this reason, arm yourself with patience, understanding, and love. Try to put pride aside and accompany your child closely in this complicated stage.

Why your adolescent child won’t speak to you

When an adolescent closes themself off, the first impulse of every parent is to feel offended. And then, to attack the youth, reproach them for their behavior, and demand a change. But what’s truly relevant is understanding why the young man or woman is behaving like this, and in this regard, there are several possible reasons.

It’s a typical phenomenon of age

It’s common and natural for adolescents to tend to distance themselves from their parents in order to connect closely with their peer group. These are now their references and they’ll turn to them for guidance and advice or to share their concerns. In fact, the main objective of their lives is to fit into this nucleus of belonging.

For this reason, parents are often left out of the equation. Although it’s difficult to accept it, this shouldn’t be alarming or offensive because it’s a behavior that’s typical of this vital stage.

When the young person opens up, they only get judgment and criticism

A mother who's frustrated because her teenage daughter ignores her.

Unconsciously, many parents react in a brusque and inappropriate way when their children open up emotionally and tell them their problems or their daily anecdotes. They judge, criticize, or recriminate their behavior, remind them that they’ve already been warned, or punish them without offering their support or understanding.

This causes adolescents to become more and more hermetic, as they don’t perceive their parents as a safe place but rather as a source of conflict and discomfort.

There’s no dialogue, only interrogation

Think for a moment about how conversations with your child go. Is it really a dialogue in which you both share opinions, experiences, and points of view? Or do you limit yourself to constantly throwing questions at them, more to monitor their day-to-day life than to enrich yourself with the conversation?

Although it may sound irrelevant, this difference is truly transcendental: In the first case, young people feel respected and taken as equals, while in the second, they feel harassed.

The child’s been offended or needs to make you see that they’re in control

If your adolescent child won’t speak to you or has closed themselves off completely, it’s likely that they did so in response to some refusal on your part or to limits with which they don’t agree.

Some young people use this strategy to “punish” their parents or to make them see that they won’t conform to the imposed norms. In this way, they manage to feel that they regain some control over the situation.

You’ve been indiscreet and have revealed their secrets

When adolescents open up with their parents, we don’t always give enough importance to their concerns. Rather, we may minimize them and share them with others without the consent of our children. Given this, your teenager may feel betrayed and refuse to reveal other details of their private life from then on.

How to respond if your teenager won’t speak to you

How you should act if your adolescent won’t speak to you has to do directly with understanding the reason behind their behavior.

Depending on the case, you can implement any of the following strategies:

  • Remember that your child has the right not to speak, either because they’re reserved or because they’re angry. Don’t demand to communicate when they don’t want to or try to manipulate them into opening up. This isn’t the best way, as it constitutes a lack of respect towards them and their feelings.
  • Learn to listen without judgment. Instead of trying to answer, recriminate, or solve the situations that your child brings up, simply listen to them and try to understand their perspective. This way, if they don’t get an impulsive and negative response from you, it’ll be easier for them to open up and get closer to you emotionally.
  • Begin to enjoy the pleasure of talking with your child in the same way that you do with another adult. Also, share your experiences, ask, and listen to their opinion, make them a participant in your life so that they can involve you in theirs. Forget the interrogations and opt for nutritious conversations.
  • Try to involve your child in making decisions and setting limits. If you reach a consensus and the minor feels heard and taken into account, they’ll be more inclined to accept and abide by the rules. Flexibility (not permissiveness) may be the key.
  • Show them that you’re trustworthy. Don’t reveal or share what your child tells you confidentially, even if it seems like a minor matter.
A mother and her teenage son talking.

If your teenager won’t talk to you, show them that you can handle it

Even if you apply the above guidelines, you should know that your child is likely to be uncommunicative at times and you should be able to accept and deal with it.

Adolescents need parents with self-control, who know not to take their mood swings personally, and who can accompany them with calm, acceptance, and patience. Therefore, if your child doesn’t want to talk, simply show that you’re available, quietly and respectfully, and open to possible communication. When they feel ready, they’ll know that they can come to you.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.