Teens not talking with their parents is an old story, but I thought I’d add a new reason why this phenomenon occurs and how you can avoid it. I’ll use the metaphor of the turtle and the hailstorm to demonstrate my advice.
Your teenager, AKA the turtle, being who she is, has started retreating into her shell because she wants, needs, and deserves more privacy. Her world has naturally expanded as she enters the larger middle school and eventually high school, her friendships change often, and as a result parents start to know fewer and fewer of her friends and their parents. And when she starts to drive, forget it. She starts spending more time in her room connecting with her friends on her devices, away from the family. It was so easy in grade school because you got to spend time helping out in her classroom and sitting with other parents in the stands at sporting events and concerts.
Parents, AKA the hailstorm, begin to worry more about said turtle due to this growing sense of disconnection. Your adolescent turtle is also showing signs of being on an emotional roller coaster, but when you ask her what’s going on, she brushes by you and marches off to her bedroom, slamming the door and muttering under her breath about how annoying you are. This of course further worries the parents, and they start to hail a bit louder by asking more questions and checking every single text and social media posting looking for clues as to the whereabouts of their old daughter.
The turtle feels even more annoyed, and in response retreats further into her shell, giving out even less information as to their status. Little do they know but parents who feel disconnected from their teens worry more, not less, and thus the intensity of their inquiries heightens. Does this cycle sound familiar?
Fortunately, there is a way out of this spiral. Let’s begin with the parent’s part. First, parents need to stop hailing. You need to watch your intensity and tone of voice when talking to your turtle. Coming at them with angst or anger just makes it worse. No matter what they throw at you, do not join them on their emotional roller coaster. SOMEONE needs to stay calm and not go there. Also pick your spots for when you talk with them. Right after school is THE worst time to get anything out of most teens. They need some quiet, alone time to decompress and to process all of the social dynamics that went down that day at school. Better times to get more out of them is while driving places where you aren’t face-to-face, sitting on the edge of their bed later at night, or when taking the dog for a walk after dinner. Use your mirroring skills to really hear them, i.e. “So what I heard you say is__, did I get that right? Tell me more about that.” Finally, ask permission before you give advice.
Turtles, listen up. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to poke your head out of your shell and share enough of you that your parents feel connected. Let them know how you think about and are handling big issues like drugs, alcohol, sexuality, and your future. It’s much easier for them to stop hailing if they feel like you are being thoughtful about issues and not just blowing them off. Invite your new friends over so that your hailstorms can put a face with a name and realize that they are actually nice kids. The more open and transparent you are, the easier it is for them to trust you and let go. I want you to have some privacy, and I really feel for your generation because of the way you are monitored 24/7. You must give your parents enough of you or you are inviting them to be more worried and intrusive.
So that’s it. Both sides just focus on your part, and your relationship will settle down. You do not have to be at odds with each other during the teen years. Respect each other’s needs, and the turtle will emerge and the hailstorm will dissipate.
Look for Dr. Jordan’s new E-book for young adults and their parents entitled:
Letters From My Grandfather: Timeless Wisdom For a Life Worth Living