How to Talk to Your Teen When Your Teen Won't Talk to You


What happened to that sweet boy who'd whisper in your ear that he loved you? All you can get from him now is a grunt, a demand, and an explosion of anger.  

Your son is rapidly changing. A whole new world of emotions, urges and social awareness has been awakened. Author and Pastor, Ted Roberts, put it this way, "He's like a Ferrari without breaks." He's all souped-up to experience and impact the world but he is clueless to get the car out of the garage without taking down the whole house. He does what he's seen other men do, put your head down, push through it and don't bring up anything that makes you look weak.    

What do I do about his anger? The last thing you want to do is get into a power struggle. It's important to note that in most cases anger is acting as a secondary emotion. It's protecting a vulnerable emotion by pushing everyone back. Like a wounded animal, to protect yourself you let everyone know you're still dangerous. Anger pushes others back. 

  • Don't get pulled into the secondary crisis/argument/fight    
  • Recognize he feels threatened, incapable or lacking tools to communicate his real feelings
  • Set boundaries with a soft invitation, "It's not ok for you to talk to me like that, but I can see you're feeling some strong emotions. Know that I love you and what to support you anyway I can. Talk to me about what you're dealing with when you're ready." 
  • Take note of how you deal with your emotions.  What does it look like when you're angry? 

Does he have an emotional vocabulary? I'm not talking about knowing words like happy, sad and angry, I'm talking about speaking the language of emotions. Most men are clueless about emotions. Just look at our culture, men can only cry when it's "appropriate."  Men don't talk about feelings, we talk about things; men get angry and take charge, we control ourselves.    

  • Emotions give vital information about what he's experiencing (Just like our stomach gives us information around dinner time) 
  • Emotions request/demand action (Your stomach tells you you're hungry so you'll eat) 
  • Each emotion has a unique role to inform and initiate action   
  • Journaling is a great way to boost your emotional vocabulary  
  • Get an emotions list off the internet and identify one emotion a day  

Can he be emotionally vulnerable? Being emotionally vulnerable is frightening, particularly if you've been hurt in the past. For guys another layer is added, vulnerability is weak, strength is desired. Looking strong is valued over being real. I've sat with countless successful men who are not emotionally vulnerable. A common thought they all have is "I'm a fake and it's just a matter of time until everyone finds out." As they become emotionally vulnerable with others they learn that everyone has that thought from time to time. Their boss, their co-worker, who brags about all his accomplishments, they all struggle. You just don't know about it until someone lets their guard down.  

  • Teens are developmentally geared towards becoming an individual. They are seeing themselves less a part of you and more a separate person. Fighting with them to open up may be a lost cause for NOW. They will come back in due time. Better energy might be spent guiding them to talk to other trusted adults and leaders they look up to.  

Is he safe? If you think your son is going to harm himself or someone else, do everything in your power to keep him and others safe. In doing so you may rupture the relationship, but tomorrow is now an option to heal it. You have to decide when to intervene, seeking guidance and support can make a difficult situation more manageable.     

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About Me: I'm a Christian counselor in Vancouver, WA. I specialize in treating male teens and men's counseling. Please contact me with any questions about my blog, counseling or to set up an appointment.

All information and opinions shared on this blog are for educational purposes only. Please contact me or another mental health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Teen Counselor | Vancouver, WA