Communicating with your Teen


The Challenge and the Hope

The key to a healthy relationship with your teen is keeping the lines of communication open. However, finding ways to communicate with them can be a challenge when they seem to have little interest in us or maintaining a relationship with us and they seem so absorbed with their peers.

Remember, though, that teens really do want their parents involved with them, but on their terms.

Here are some ideas to help you stay connected:

Topics teens say they want to talk about with their parents

  • Family issues

  • Emotional issues – having parents say they love them

  • Big philosophical issues – what parents think about God, politics, why people and countries fight

  • Their own future – as teens, in college and beyond

  • Personal interests

  • Their own lives

  • Current events


Ideas and questions to start a conversation with your teen

    question mark

  • How was today on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • What was the high point and the low point of your day?

  • Tell me the good news and the bad news about school today (work, practice, camp, etc).

  • What’s a thought or feeling you had today?

  • What happened today that you did not expect?

  • I’m wondering what you’re thinking about (if your teen seems preoccupied). Would you be willing to talk to me about it?

  • Tell me about something good that’s happened since the last time we talked.

  • Describe something you have done recently that you are proud of.

  • What’s on your mind these days?

  • Tell me about something you are looking forward to these days?

  • Tell me about something you did this week to help someone else.

  • Tell me about how someone helped you this week.


Messages teens need to hear from their parents

You can say these things in ways that are comfortable for you – find your own voice. It is the underlying message that matters, not the actual words that are used.

  • I love you (unconditionally) and will always love you.

  • You belong in this family. You are important to all of us.

  • I will be here for you regardless of any mistakes you may make.

  • I know there will be times when you will make mistakes in judgment and be more impulsive than you will one day be.

  • I also understand that right now it is hard to focus on others because so much is going on inside you in so many ways. It won’t always be that way.

  • Believe it or not, I really once was a teenager. I know that it is hard to believe.

  • I am learning about you as you grow up. I appreciate all the good things about you and the potential I see for you to become a wonderful adult in this world.

  • I know that sometimes you don’t like the rules I impose on you. I have them to keep you safe and to help you grow.

  • Thank you for trying so hard.

  • You can be a little kid sometimes and an almost adult at other times. I understand that and it is okay with me.

  • I am really not out to get you or to ruin your life although I know that at times it may seem like I am.

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The Skill of Problem Exploration

puzzleWhenever teens can be included in the process of exploring a problem and participating in generating solutions, they are much more likely to cooperate, comply and accept consequences.

A Problem Exploration and Conflict Resolution process gives you a way to include your teen in finding ways to handle conflicts and differences that arise in your family.

The process needs to be respectful and provide emotional safety for each person and be constructive for the parent/child relationship.

You can use this approach to model healthy ways to address problems and conflicts. Often the decision about how to resolve the problem is not as important as the process itself.

The goals are to:

  • Build and maintain a healthy relationship

  • Encourage the child’s budding sense of autonomy and independence

  • Build the teen’s sense of competency

  • Encourage the teen to be more involved and more responsible

  • Maintain an atmosphere of respect

  • Role model fair and effective ways to handle problems and conflicts

The steps include:

  • Describing the problem behaviorally without blaming, shaming

  • Explaining why it is a problem

  • Each person explains his perspective, needs, feelings

  • Brainstorming possible ways to solve or manage the problem

  • Choosing a solution to try

  • Developing possible consequences if someone does not live up to his end of the deal

  • Checking how everyone is feeling about the fairness of the process

  • Checking back after an established period of time to evaluate effectiveness of solution



For more information about raising a teen, check out the following books. Purchasing from through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.

Yes, Your Teen is Crazy by Bradley Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers by Riera The Roller Coaster Years by Giannetti and Sagarese The Second Family by Taffel Raising a Teenager by Elium How to Hug a Porcupine - Negotiating the Prickly Points of the Tween Years by Ross You and Your Adolescent by Steinberg

<recommended books about raising adolescents

<all our recommended parenting books


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<additional online resources for parenting teens