Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

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

Bring Icebreakers continued...

"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.)

Second that emotion

A paradox of teenagehood: Kids feel chronically misunderstood, but do little to correct misconceptions about themselves. They have an image, as well as a secret self, to protect...often by saying very little. So how do you draw out these shadowy creatures in your midst? When chatting, "don’t echo back what they’ve said to prove you’ve been listening. A typical teen might reply, 'Duh, I just said that,'" observes Haight. "Instead, describe the emotion they’ve expressed." For example, if your son brings home a D in geometry and says, "I suck at math," show empathy by saying, "It’s scary to feel like you don’t get something." You’re keying in to the emotion, not telling him he’s wrong ("You’re not stupid!") or going into fix-it mode ("We’ll get a tutor").

And don’t always try to lighten the mood when your child brings up unhappy feelings; you may shut down a conversation before it starts. For instance, a pimple isn’t the end of the world. But for a teen on school-picture day? It is. "Put yourself in her shoes," says Lauren Ayers, Ph.d., a psychologist in Saratoga Springs, NY, and author of Teenage Girls: A Parent’s Survival Manual. "Remember what it was like to feel vulnerable in a high-pressure situation. You may think a joke puts the problem [or pimple] in perspective, but you’re really belittling her." Instead, empathize with the emotion. Say, "It’s frustrating to feel out of control about the way you look." Odds are, she’ll tell you more about how she’s feeling.

Be the student

Yes, you’re the parent, but flaunting your experience and expertise can make a teen clam up. Instead, "If you humble yourself, and act like you don’t have a clue, you give teens a chance to feel superior," says Ayers. "And they will take that opportunity."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow