5 Ways to Get Your Teenager with Anxiety to Talk to You

Photo of black mom and teen son having a nice conversation with each other while sitting on a couch in their home. Photo could represent how much easier it feels for this teen with anxiety to open up since seeing a solution focused brief therapist in Illinois.

As a parent, it can be tough trying to get your teenager with anxiety to talk to you. Sometimes it feels like cracking a secret code. Science has shown that the teen brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason and to think before we act.

As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world. Simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes beyond their control which can feel awkward and confusing.

However, by employing the strategies we’ll discuss in this post, you’ll learn how to break through the barriers that prevent or hinder communication. Let’s discover how you can build a stronger, more open relationship with your teen.

Anxiety Can Cause Distance in Teens   

Before we jump into specific strategies, let’s look at how anxiety can cause distance in teens. There’s no doubt that teens are facing a lot of challenges these days – bullying, social media, gaming obsession, temptation to use substances, academic struggles, political and ideological divisions, as well as relational, emotional, and financial stressors. These challenges can cause fear and anxiety in even the strongest of adolescents.

It can be difficult to know how to help your child through these challenges, especially if they’re not doing much talking. It can feel bewildering at times for them and certainly for you as well. One day they’re chatting up a storm and the next, they’re quiet or combative. What’s a confused parent to do?

It’s important to understand that when teens experience anxiety, they may become preoccupied with their own thoughts and concerns. They might avoid certain situations or conversations that trigger their anxiety, leading to a sense of isolation from friends and family. Their self-esteem often takes a hit as well which can make it difficult for them to reach out for support or confide in you about their struggles. Try not to take it personally.

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager 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. Work hard to provide understanding, support, and guidance to help them work through their challenging emotions and don’t give up.

Here are 5 suggestions you can try.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teen when they want to talk. Instead of saying that you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen.

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. When you actively listen to your teen, you demonstrate genuine interest in what they have to say, which encourages them to open up and share more with you.

And don’t forget that listening involves more than just hearing words; it involves paying attention to your teen’s body language, tone of voice, and emotions. By practicing active listening, you show empathy and understanding, creating a safe space for your teen to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism.

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.

Teenagers often feel like their parents don’t understand them or their struggles. By making an effort to empathize with your teen, you demonstrate that you respect their feelings and experiences. This can make them more willing to open up to you and share their thoughts and concerns.

When you try to see things from your teen’s perspective, it also helps you connect with your teen on a deeper level and builds trust. You become more aware of the pressures and challenges they face. This insight allows you to offer better support and guidance, rather than dismissing their feelings or experiences.

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.

By acknowledging and validating your teen’s perspective, you create a supportive environment where they feel respected and valued. This encourages them to continue sharing their thoughts and concerns with you, knowing that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Moreover, when you respond to your teenager in a way that reflects understanding and empathy, it strengthens your relationship with them. They are more likely to confide in you and seek your advice which can pave the way for a deeper connection and a stronger bond between the two of you.

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?”

Asking specific questions shows that you’re interested in their thoughts and experiences. They show you’re paying attention and genuinely curious about what’s going on in their life. This makes your teen feel valued and understood, which can lead to more meaningful conversations.

Additionally, specific questions help guide the conversation and allow you to delve deeper into topics that your teenager may not have thought to bring up on their own. This can lead to a greater understanding of their interests, concerns, and challenges.

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. It plays a significant role in how willing your teen is to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. 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.

Choosing a location where your teenager feels at ease and free from distractions can make a big difference. Whether it’s a quiet corner of the house, a favorite park, or even a cozy café, finding a spot where your teen feels comfortable can encourage them to relax and engage in conversation more openly.

A good location also offers privacy, which is essential for building trust and fostering honest communication. Your teenager may be more willing to discuss sensitive topics or share their innermost thoughts if they feel confident that their conversation won’t be overheard or interrupted.

In conclusion, encouraging open communication with your teen is critical for building a strong and trusting relationship. By implementing the five strategies discussed in this post — learning to listen, putting yourself in their shoes, watching for signs, asking specific questions, and finding the right location — you can create an environment where your teen with anxiety feels heard, valued, and respected. Remember, communication is a two-way street, so be patient, keep the lines of communication open, and continue to show your teen that you’re there to listen and support them. With time and effort, you’ll find that your bond with your teen grows stronger, and they’ll feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with you

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

If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, 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.