5 Tips to Getting Your Teen with Anxiety to Talk to You

Photo of Caucasian girl and mother sitting on couch together. The daughter's arms are crossed and she is giving a side eye to her mom who looks concerned. Photo could represent teen anxiety and the need for online solution focused brief counseling for teens in Illinois and Florida.

Are you the parent of a teen with anxiety who struggles to open up? If so, you’re not alone. Many parents find it hard to have meaningful conversations with their teenage children. As difficult as it can feel, however it’s important to build open lines of communication during this crucial time in their lives.

Communication is key in any relationship, but especially between parents and teenagers. As your child enters their teenage years, they may start to pull away and become less talkative. This can be frustrating and confusing for you if you’ve had open and honest conversations with your child in the past.

If you’re struggling to get your teenager to talk to you, don’t worry. There are things you can do to make this process easier. In this article, I’ll offer five tips that will help you improve communication with your teenager and strengthen your relationship.

Anxiety Can Cause Distance in Teens   

Adolescence is a period of immense change and growth, both physically and emotionally. It’s very common for teens to experience heightened levels of anxiety during this time.

As they navigate the challenges of school, friendships, and their future, they may withdraw from their parents in an attempt to deal with their anxiety on their own. This distancing can show itself in various ways, such as avoiding spending time with their parents, becoming closed off and secretive about their feelings, or even lashing out in anger or frustration.

Here are some additional reasons for distancing:

Fear of judgment or criticism

One reason why anxiety can lead to distance from parents is the fear of judgment or criticism. Teens may worry that their parents won’t understand their struggles or will view their anxiety as a sign of weakness. Consequently, they may choose to keep their emotions and worries to themselves, fearing that opening up will result in negative consequences.

Difficulty articulating feelings and thoughts

Additionally, anxiety can make communication difficult, as teens may struggle to articulate their feelings and thoughts. This can further lead to a sense of isolation and detachment from their parents. They may feel misunderstood or unable to find the right words to express themselves.

Desire for independence

Yet another reason for the distance caused by teen anxiety is the desire for independence. As teens strive to become more independent and establish their own identities, they may feel the need to break away from their parents and figure things out on their own. They may perceive any attempts by their parents to intervene or offer support as controlling, further pushing them away.

It’s important for parents to be understanding and patient when their teens experience anxiety, and to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for them to express their feelings.

Building trust and open lines of communication can help bridge the distance caused by anxiety, as teens will feel more comfortable reaching out for support and guidance. Parents can also encourage their teens to seek professional help if their anxiety becomes too overwhelming. Therapy can provide them with the tools and coping mechanisms needed to navigate through their anxiety.

5 Tips to Getting Your Teen with Anxiety to Talk to You

While finding ways to talk to your teen or getting them to talk to you might be difficult, it’s not impossible. Here are 5 suggestions you can try.

Learn to Listen

Give your teen your full attention. This means putting away distractions such as phones or laptops and making eye contact to show that you’re fully present and engaged in the conversation.

Avoid interrupting or offering advice right away. Instead, give your teens space to express themselves fully and wait for them to finish before responding. This shows that you value your teens’ thoughts and opinions and creates an open and safe space for communication.

Teens have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions.

Instead, put yourself in your teen’s shoes. Think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you in the way you respond to them.

Be empathetic and validate their feelings. Adolescence can be a challenging time filled with intense emotions, and it’s important for you to show understanding and empathy towards your teens’ experiences. This can be done by using phrases such as “I can understand why you might feel that way” or “That sounds really difficult.”

Validating their feelings helps to build trust and creates a supportive environment where teens feel safe to open up and share their thoughts and emotions. Overall, listening well not only deepens the parent-teen relationship but also allows you to better understand your teens’ needs and provide appropriate support.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you.

They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Here are some additional signs that indicate you’re tracking with each other.

You will:

  • Maintain eye contact during the conversation
  • Nod or give other non-verbal cues to show that you’re listening
  • Ask questions or seek clarification about what the other is saying
  • Be able to summarize or paraphrase what the other has said
  • Offer your own thoughts or opinions on the topic
  • Make changes in your behavior or actions based on what the other has communicated to you
  • Show empathy or understanding towards each other’s perspective
  • Engage in a productive and meaningful conversation
  • Remember and recall information or instructions you’ve given each other
  • Actively participate in the conversation and contribute your own ideas or perspectives

Ask Specific Questions

Instead of the general, “How was your day?”, why not ask about a friend you know by name? Or about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like?

Ask open-ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?” or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Here are some other questions that may help your teen open up:

  • Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss or share?
  • How would you describe your current mood and emotions?
  • Are there any challenges or struggles you’re facing that you’d like to talk about?
  • What are your goals and aspirations at the moment?
  • Can you tell me about your friends and social interactions? Any highlights or concerns?
  • Reflecting on your experiences, is there something you’ve learned recently that you find valuable?
  • Do you have any thoughts or concerns about your future or career choices?
  • What are some things you enjoy doing in your free time? Is there something new you’ve been interested in lately?

Remember to approach these questions with genuine curiosity and be an active listener without judgment. It’s important to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for your teen to open up and share.

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to teens is after school. Just like you do after work, they need time to wind down. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual and there’s no pressure for eye contact.

The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat). They tend to feel more comfortable talking in the car because you’re not looking directly at them.

Here are some additional locations for talking to your teen:

Coffee shops

Find a cozy corner in a local coffee shop where you can sit comfortably, enjoy a beverage, and have an uninterrupted conversation with your teen.

Nature parks or hiking trails

Take a leisurely walk in nature. Serene surroundings can help ease the conversation and create a relaxed atmosphere.

Beaches or lakesides

Enjoy the calming sound of waves while engaging in meaningful conversations with your teen.

Bookstores or libraries

Browse through books together or find a quiet corner. Discuss the books that interest both of you, opening up avenues for stimulating discussions.

Cooking or baking together

Engage in a joint culinary experience, such as cooking a meal or baking cookies, which can create a relaxed and informal environment that sparks heartfelt conversations.

Art or craft workshops

Enroll in an art or craft workshop with your teen, where the engaging activity can lead to conversations about creativity, self-expression, and other meaningful topics.

Community volunteering

Engage in a shared volunteer activity, such as serving at a local soup kitchen or participating in a community cleanup. These experiences of helping others can foster deep conversations and reflection.

Remember, the key to having great conversations is to create a relaxed and comfortable environment where your child feels heard and respected. Prioritize quality time, active listening, and open-mindedness to cultivate meaningful conversations with your teen.

In conclusion, establishing open lines of communication with your teenager is crucial for fostering a healthy relationship and ensuring their emotional well-being. By implementing the five tips discussed in this article, you can create a safe and supportive environment that encourages your teenager to open up and share their thoughts and concerns.

Remember to be patient, listen without judgment, and make an effort to understand their perspective. It may take time and effort, but the rewards are invaluable – a closer bond with your teenager and the opportunity to guide them through the complexities of adolescence. With these strategies, you can pave the way for meaningful conversations that will strengthen your relationship with your teenager for years to come.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida.

Photo of Caucasian female teen sitting at desk with her hands on the keyboard and smiling in to the screen. Photo could represent an online Christian counseling session for teens in Illinois.If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, including panic attacks, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email Helena@BrieflyCounseling.com to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.

And effective 2024, I am now licensed in Florida! For parents in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Destin, Crestview, Coral Gables, Weston, Parkland, Naples, Marco Island, and Pinecrest, I have immediate openings.

Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.