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Health & Parenting

What Your Teen Isn't Telling You

If your child has been giving you the silent treatment, here's how to subtly but surely improve
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Bring Icebreakers

Conversations often flow better when there’s an object that triggers them. This is something TV interviewers and documentary filmmakers know well: "Putting a subject in a chair, turning on the camera, and saying, 'Now tell me your deepest fears, hopes, and dreams' may not work. The subject can feel put on the spot," notes Ricki Stern, mother of three and an Emmy-nominated director and producer of documentary films,including Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. "But if you do something with them, like drive in a car or cook, or put something in their hands, subjects have something to do and will start talking about the object, and the next thing you know, they go off on a barely related tangent about something more revealing."

So bring home a stack of rented DVDs to jump-start some chats. Walk into the house with a bag of groceries, and you will not be alone for long. I knocked on Maggie’s bedroom door with a new liquid eyeliner. "I have a business lunch tomorrow," I said. "Thought I’d try a smoky eye."

Standing at her mirror, I started working and asked for her input.

"You’re not doing it right," she said, and directed me to sit on her bed to submit to a makeover.

"How do you know so much about this?" I asked.

"YouTube videos," she said, wand in hand. "Trial and error. I experiment a lot; whatever makes me look older." Right before my eyes (lids now shimmering), Maggie’s composure melted. She told me how much she hated being slim. Every other girl in her grade was a lot curvier. She wanted to look more mature, like, tomorrow. Twenty minutes later, the spigot of true confession shut off just as quickly as it had turned on. I held back the bromides about late bloomers and forced myself to simply listen and lend support.

I said, "Anytime you want to talk about it, I’m here for you."

Maggie rolled her expertly lined eyes and said, "Don’t ruin it, Mom." (I’m trying not to, believe me.)

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