Help, My Teenage Boy Won’t Talk to Me!

A mom schedules a therapy appointment for her teenage son. When I ask what’s brought them into therapy, the mom expresses frustration that her teenager won’t talk to her about what’s bothering him. Whatever the presenting issue may be, the teenager responds to his mother’s request to talk with, “I’m fine mom” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” The mom is sad that her son no longer confides in her and scared the son is going to get worse if he holds everything in. Have you ever experienced this situation? As a therapist, I see it all the time!

Why Teenage Boys Struggle to Talk

There are several reasons why teenage boys struggle to talk. 
    • One reason is that boys in our society are trained to hold in their negative emotions. They are taught to believe that talking about feelings or relationship issues is a sign of weakness. 
    • Another reason is that boys are not always sure what they are struggling with. Your teenage son may feel angry all the time. He may be engaging in risky behavior. It’s possible he’s struggling with depression and not aware of it. 
    • Sometimes boys don’t want to talk to their parents because they are afraid of being judged or upsetting their family. Adolescence is a transitional period where teenage boys are leaving the securities of childhood and constructing a new social identity for themselves. Part of adolescence is finding a new group (apart from the family) that one can confide in. I find that boys are talking to their friends or girlfriends about issues even if they aren’t talking to their parents. 
3 Things to Avoid When Talking with Your Teenage Son 

Avoid lectures 

It’s important that your son feels like you are engaged in a dialogue, not a one-sided monologue. Distill what you want to talk to your teenager about into a short list of key points. Highlighting one or two important issues will keep the conversation on track and help alleviate your son’s anxiety about prying into his privacy.

Stay away from assumptions 

Many of my teenage clients tell me their parents make all sorts of assumptions about what is going on in their life. Instead of assuming that your son is struggling with the divorce, ask him what is going well in his life. If he stays negative or refuses to talk, remind him that you care about him and just want to know what’s going on in his life. 

Watch your emotions 

When our teenage boys refuse to talk, it’s easy to assume the worst. When we overwhelm our teens with questions like, “Are you sure you’re ok”,  or “Please tell me what’s wrong”, it sends an indirect message to your guy that maybe he should be worried about something. We need to be careful not to impose our anxiety or uncertainties unto our teenage boys. 

5 Ideas To Help Communicate with your Teenage Son

Buy them lunch

Teenage boys have an enormous appetite. Very few will refuse a juicy cheeseburger or a slice of pizza. Talking with your son at his favorite restaurant can help encourage a conversation in a neutral setting. Making sure your son has a full stomach can help with blood sugar levels and help fight against grouchiness during the conversation.  

Schedule the conversation

Teenage boys do not like being surprised by a conversation. Giving them a heads up about wanting to sit down and talk can help them prepare what they want to say. Scheduling 10-15 minutes to talk once every couple of weeks can help create a rhythm of communication and ensure the conversation is brief and to the point. 

Move while you talk

Teenage boys tend to process information better when they are engaged in some form of movement. Sitting down and talking at the kitchen table may be too distracting for your guy. Talking to your son while you walk around the block, shoot hoops or go for a bike ride can help activate your son’s ability to process and communicate in an effective manner. 

Establish a connection, then walk away

Sometimes parents want to talk right away. Teenage boys may not be ready to open up and explore what’s really going on. I often encourage parents to walk up to their son’s room, remind them that they love them, that they are there for them and that they are open to talk whenever they are ready. This subtle approach usually leads to the teenage boy reconnecting with the parent and having a good conversation later down the road.  

Listen more than you speak

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said that we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as often as we speak. Part of the reason your teenager may hesitate to talk is that he’s expecting to be talked at rather than having a mutual discussion. Even if you disagree with your son or struggle with what he’s saying, try to hold back the knee jerk comments and create an environment where he feels genuinely heard.

Counseling Can Help 

I always tell my teenage clients that a therapist is a unique adult in their life. We are not the traditional authority figures, like parents or teachers, that are laying down rules and consequences for their actions.  Our job is to listen in a nonjudgmental way and to encourage them to identify and work through whatever issues they are facing. It takes a while for most teenage boys to open up in therapy, but once they do it’s amazing how much they learn about themselves and their inner life. I find that teenage boys who learn to identify their feelings and put them into words grow in their willingness to speak to their parents.

Counseling is a financial and time commitment, but it pays off. Many teen guys find relief and build coping skills that can last a lifetime when they seek out professional help. Please do not hesitate to reach out today and call for help!

Other Services at the Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch

Our counseling services at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch include counseling for children and adolescents dealing with depression, self-injury, and school issues. We also provide services for family therapy, counseling for young adultstrauma counseling, anxiety treatmentcouples counseling, eating disorder treatment, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs with helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Center today!