If communication is difficult you will not be able to find out what matters to your teenager. You will not be able to discover what your teenager thinks is important or what your teenager is worried about. You will not be able to say that he or she is special for you, that you care about what is happening, that you love your teenager. Perhaps most important of all, you will not be able to find out what your teenager needs at his or her particular age and stage.


  • Timing. Choose your time. You will know when a young person feels like talking, and when they don’t. In a car, or late at night are often good times to talk. Be guided by the teenager. Hold back when it does not feel right, and be patient. Rest assured that there will be times when your teenager will want to talk.
  • Useful hooks. It is sometimes possible to use hooks like news items, events that are occurring in soap operas, or films or TV programmes to start a discussion. Talking about things that are happening to other people outside the home may be easier than talking about more personal things.
  • Share. Be willing to talk about yourself. People often find it easier to talk if the other person discloses a little about themselves. Rather than asking the other person a direct question about themselves, you could try talking a little about what is happening to you. This will enable the other person to open up, and share something with you.
  • Act. Sometimes actions can help to make communication easier. Offering to make a young person a snack or a cup of tea may be a better way to start a conversation than asking a direct question.
  • Listen. Communication goes two ways. Talking and listening go hand in hand. The more you show you are listening, the more the other person will talk. Download this useful guide in active listening

Either they are being interrogated, or they are being nagged about something they have not done yet, such as their homework.

  • Your teenager will talk, but not always at the time of your choosing.
  • Your teenager will talk, but not about the things that he or she considers to be private.
  • Your teenager will talk, but not if there is a sense that the talk might turn into an interrogation.
  • Your teenager will talk, but not if there is a feeling that you are busy, distracted, or likely to be interrupted.

They will talk, but at their own time, and in their own way. This is partly to do with lack of confidence, but also to do with confusing emotions. Both these factors mean that it is not always easy to talk openly just at the point when a parent wants to have a discussion about something.

Second, it is important to recognise that during these years young people do need a degree of privacy to work things out for themselves. They want to be independent individuals, growing and maturing into adults. No one who is trying to be independent will feel like telling their parents everything that is happening to them.

  • Communication is a two-way process. It involves listening as well as talking. The more you show you are listening, the more likely it is that the teenager will want to talk to you.
  • Communication is a skill. It is something you have to learn. Young people sometimes hang back because they feel that adults are better at communication than they are.
  • Communication is much more than the words that come out of your mouth. The message you send will be affected by the way you stand, the gestures you make, and the emotion that is conveyed. It’s not only what you say, but also how you say it that matters most.
  • A lot of communication today takes place on-line. Young people may feel just as comfortable sending a text or messaging than talking face-to-face. Communication can occur in many different media.


To keep lines of communication open with your teenager, here are some very helpful things to do:
Search for opportunities to talk off-message
Use ‘I’ messages
Make use of open questions
Share something about yourself
Treat them as equals
Do what you say others should do
Listen without criticizing
Appreciate them for their good characteristics
Give genuine love yet hold solid boundaries over conduct
Give regular ‘strokes’
Include them in family activities however give them the option to quit
Understand and take action only when asked for assistance.