Can You Talk to Your Teenager about Anything?

Parents have been trying to figure this out for a long time. Talking to teens isn’t always easy, but it’s a huge part of building a great relationship with your child. An ongoing, meaningful connection between kids and parents is one of the most powerful factors in supporting teen mental and physical health. That includes open communication so teens feel safe talking with parents about what they’re thinking and feeling.


A Few Do’s and Don’ts

Sometimes the toughest part of communicating is figuring out how to get your teen talking. Whether you want to address something significant or have a friendly chat, breaking the ice can be tough.


What Not to Do

Don’t ask “Is everything fine?” When you ask your teen if everything is fine, you’re giving them the message that you want everything to be fine. And questions that are too general, like “How was your day?” as they often produce one or two words that don’t give you any information about your teen’s life or what your child is really feeling.


What to Do

Ask open-ended questions like, “How was your get-together with so-and-so?” or “How did the test go?”Give your kids the sense that you’re open to anything they have to say, whether positive or not . And try to avoid offering unsolicited advice. Choose moments when your teen seems relaxed and open, rather than trying to push them to open up when they seem stressed or irritable and don’t want to talk.


Communicating with Your Teenager

  1. Talk about trivial things. Not every conversation has to be about the important stuff. Watch a movie or TV show together and discuss it. Read the same book and compare your views. Talk about the latest celebrity news or sports. Anything that engages your teen—without being overly negative or critical.
  2. Build in regular family time. Spending time together specifically to talk and catch up can nip potential conflicts in the bud.
  3. Play a sharing game at the dinner table. Go around the table and play the game known as “Rose, Thorn, and Bud.” Each person shares their rose (the best moment of the day), thorn (the most challenging moment of the day) and bud (something they’re excited or hopeful about). This can be a great way to start a longer conversation or just keep communication open.
  4. Find places for communication in your daily routine. Driving in the car, walking, shopping, or saying goodnight to your teen are all opportunities for low-pressure conversations. Sometimes it’s easier for a teen to open up when they’re not in face-to-face contact.
  5. Write to your teen. If talking is a bit tough for you and/or your child, try using texts or e-mails to communicate occasionally. The written word is sometimes easier to absorb for teens—whether it’s an explanation of why you’ve set a limit, or simply an expression of love and appreciation.


How to Talk to Teenagers About Discipline and Limits

These years can be rocky as teens struggle to build autonomy and independence — while also dealing with raging hormones and tumultuous emotions. It’s important to let them be their own person and have their own life. However, establishing limits for an adolescent is often necessary. Set boundaries around issues like technology use, going out on school nights, chores, using the car, or staying over at a friend’s house.


Try these steps for communicating limits to your child.

  1. Start with love, and listen closely.  Always begin the conversation with an attitude of loving acceptance. Before you talk, let your teen say their piece, and don’t interrupt. Listen patiently and show with your facial expression and with a nod that you care about what they have to say.
  2. Acknowledge how they feel and what they want. It’s critical for adolescents to feel understood and validated. Once they’ve presented their case, make it clear that you believe their request or complaint is important and worth addressing. Make sure they know that you’re not angry with them because of their request. You might even bounce ideas off each other for how to find a satisfying compromise.
  3. Explain why you don’t think it’s the right thing. Tell your teen, “I understand why you want to do this, and here’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea.” (Using the word “and” rather than “but” is a good way to honor their feelings.) Then list the reasons. But don’t go into too much detail: The prefrontal cortex—the reasonable, responsible part of the brain—is still developing in adolescents, so trying to appeal to their common sense doesn’t usually work.
  4. If you’re able to regulate your own emotions during a charged discussion, chances are your teen will do better, too and the conversation will go better for both of you. 

Young people are developing their own lives, identity, and their own opinion. And part of that is disagreeing with and pushing back against what they perceive as parental control.


Remind Yourself That You Are a Role Model

The way you conduct yourself in a conversation shows your child how productive—or how messy—communication can be. Remind yourself how important it is for you to serve as a positive example during the teenage years. And let this be an incentive to avoid yelling, getting overly emotional, or blaming your teen.

(Source: Newport Academy blog, and for more information visit