If you’re a parent of a teenager, chances are excellent that more than once you’ve complained about how your teen simply refuses to talk to you. You want to communicate … you want to know what your teen is doing, thinking, feeling … you don’t want to face stoney silence.

It may not be much comfort, but know you’re not alone. It’s a problem many parents face, including, more likely, your own when you were growing up. Remember, for a moment, what it was like to be 14, 15, or 16 years old.

On the one hand, you wanted to be treated like an adult, yet were still dependent on your parents for money, food, housing and most other basics of living. One second you were telling your parents you didn’t need their help, the next asking them to drive you to the movies!

Teenagers typically have mixed feelings about growing up. They want to be independent, but are also frightened by all the things that independence will bring. They face complicated feelings they aren’t always willing, or able, to put into words. It’s also difficult for most parents as they try to decide how much independence their teen can handle and how much dependence is still needed.

One starting point is simply accepting that most teens are going to want to talk to their friends more than to their parents. But there are still things you can do to help guide your teen in the right direction.

• Invest in your teen:

Encourage your teen to invite friends to the house. Even if you can’t stand the noise coming from the stereo, make an effort to know their music. You don’t have to like your teen’s friends, music, or TV preferences to appreciate that he or she is trying to develop an identity separate from yours.

• Validate your teen’s feelings:

Yes, teens’ emotional reactions can seem irrational at times, but teens need to be encouragment. Instead of immediately giving advice, let your teen know you accept his or her reaction.

• Empower your teen:

Most parents don’t want to see their teenagers make the same mistakes they made growing up. That’s why it’s so tempting to solve your teens’ problems for them. Instead, say something like, “That’s tough, what are you going to do?” If they have no idea, then offer some solutions, but leave the decision up to them.

It may take some time for your teen to see that you are not going to lecture every time he or she talks to you. But your teen should begin to see you value his or her developing identity, and eventually will see you as someone to consult regarding life’s tougher decisions.

Most of all, trust that your teen will learn from his or her mistakes. Your teen is also more likely to make the right choices when feeling supported and valued by you!

Your teen is probably seeking support during these confusing times from his or her friends. Take a clue from your teen and seek out friends and co-workers who may be able to support you during this time. It can be a great relief to hear that other parents are experiencing the same struggles, and they may have other insights and strategies on how to make it.

Marci Payne is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Healing Grace Counseling Centers in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

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