This post: How to Get Your Teen to Confide in You Even With the Big Stuff
When I became a mom, I always dreamed of having a close relationship with my kids… especially when they became moody, fickle teenagers.
But, as hard as I tried to build a sense of trust between us, once my kids hit the teen years, they became far more tight-lipped.
When I asked about their day at school or how things were going with a guy or girl I secretly knew they were crushing on or details about a party they went to last Friday night, I almost always got an abbreviated answer.
“Yea, everything’s good.”
“Umm… I dunno. Nothing major to tell.”
It’s not that I was trying to control my kids by knowing every last detail of their lives. I just needed an inside track so I could influence and guide them (especially when life got messy or complicated or confusing), protect them (the best I could), be a sounding board when they needed to vent and, hopefully, be their moral compass.
Still, when I dove in with questions, more often than not, they’d shut down.
Were they afraid to tell me?
Were they hiding something?
Were they convinced I wouldn’t understand?
Fearful I’d freak out?
Or just being normal teenagers who simply didn’t need me as much as they once did?
As a mom, I wasn’t about to stand for one-word answers – far too much was at stake. And, I knew I wasn’t going to get them to change. I had to figure out a way to make them want to come to me.
Here’s how to get your teen to confide in you. It won’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. But with a little persistence, you’ll eventually start to see the tide change…
How to Get Your Teen to Confide in You Even With the Big Stuff
#1 Have a “You Can Come to Me No Matter What” Policy
My kids know, unequivocally, that no matter what, they can call me or come to me – day or night. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. It doesn’t matter what tight spot they got themselves into. I’ll be there.
You can’t assume your kids know this. You have to sit them down, look them square in the eye and tell them. They need to hear it and know that they won’t get the wrath of your temper with questions like, “What in the bloody world were you thinking?” “How could you do that?” “You’re so stupid!” When they come to you, just be grateful that they trusted you with their problem(s). You can talk about it, ask questions and even put consequences in place later, if needed.
#2 Stay Calm – It’s Your Superpower
When your teen confides in you – whether it’s something they did wrong at school or they confessed that they had sex (or are thinking about having sex) with their boyfriend/girlfriend – stay calm. It’s 100% your superpower and the best way to encourage your teen to keep coming to you and confiding in you.
I know, it’s so hard. I know you want to dive in and tell them what to do. I know you want to offer your opinion and protect them with everything you’ve got. But they need you to listen calmly. The more they know you won’t react, flip out or freak out, the more likely they are to share their life with you – something they’re dying to do!
#3 Be Relatable = Approachable
As our kids get older, they start to feel as though we simply “don’t get” them anymore – how difficult school really is or why it matters so darn much to them to fit in, or how impossible it feels to find friends you can count on. That’s why we need to step into their world and try to understand what it feels like to be them. We need to relate to our kids AND they need to relate to us.
Spend time with your teen. Get to really know them – their friends, likes, worries, fears, dreams, and the issues they face every day. Listen with a non-judgmental ear. Then, step down from your parental pedestal and let your teen see the real you. Share a few (maybe not all) relatable stories about your teen years and even how you stumble, at times, as an adult – your blunders and fears. The more our kids feel they can relate to us, the more approachable we’ll be and the more they’ll actually like talking and sharing their lives with us. One more important point to remember. Try to keep it light and laugh a little. There’s enough “heavy” in our kids’ lives already.
#4 Be Their Wingman
If you look up the definition, a wingman is: A pilot in a plane that flies just outside and behind the wing of the leading aircraft in order to provide protective support. When it comes to our teens, it essentially means “we’ve got their back.”
We don’t try to control their flight. We don’t map out the trajectory of their path. We simply stay enough of a close distance behind to keep them out of trouble, keep them safe, prevent them from making monumental life-altering mistakes and alert them to oncoming issues that they may not be aware of.
The more our teens know we’re there for them, ready to step in if and when needed, the safer they’ll feel and the more likely they’ll be to know that we have their very best interest at heart and that our number one goal is to help them reach their destination (i.e. adulthood) safely.
#5 Help Them Fix Their Problems
While some parenting experts might disagree, I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t abandon our teenagers when they need us the most by “letting go.” Sure, we want them to tackle problems on their own and become confident in their ability to stand on their own two feet, but being a teenager in today’s world is hard and sometimes, they need our help.
There have been countless times I helped my kids map out a plan to tackle a problem, helped them navigate friend and relationship issues or helped them decide what “next steps” to take. I didn’t fix the problems for them, I simply offered to be a sounding board, a voice a reason, or give them my humble parental guidance if/when they asked for it. And, the more I helped them fix their problems, the more they came to me when they had a problem to solve – regardless of what it was.
#6 Trust Them
You may not realize it, but your teen needs you to trust them. They want you to believe in their abilities. They crave your approval. But we all know that age-appropriate trust can’t be handed to our kids on a silver platter… it must be earned, day by day. The more they prove to us that they can be trusted, the more we’ll entrust them. The more we entrust them, the more trustworthy they’ll become. Sounds too simple to be true… but it works!
Another huge benefit of building trust with your teen is that they’ll begin to develop far more confidence, both in themselves and your relationship. They’ll inherently begin to realize that you have faith in them and they’ll be more likely to come to you with their problems because they know you believe in them and you’re on their side.
#7 Keep Their Secrets Private
I really can’t stress this one enough. Don’t call five of your closest friends and spill your guts about what your teen just told you. Don’t tell relatives. Don’t post it on social media. Don’t even tell your teen’s siblings or EVEN your husband, wife or partner if they asked you not to. They need to know you can be trusted with their secrets. Once you betray their trust, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Bottom line, just be careful who you tell things to.
#8 Forgive… Over and Over Again
I have news for you… your teen isn’t perfect. They’re going to disappoint you and mess up royally. Expect it. And, when they do, don’t hold a grudge, don’t hold it over their head, don’t bring it up when they’re at a low, don’t lose faith in them, and don’t lose sight of the fact that they’re young and they’re learning. It’s going to take some time for them to get this adulting gig down pat.
When your teen confides you – no matter what it is they’re sharing – wrap your arms around them and show empathy, compassion and forgiveness. Tell them you’re happy they came to you (even if you’re mad as hell). Let them know you’re there for them and that they can count on you to help them sort through any problems or challenges.
Your teen wants to confide in you. They’re simply not sure how you’ll react so they steer clear of telling you anything too controversial or anything that might fire you up.
Prove to your teen that they CAN come to you about anything by breaking down the barriers that are stopping them.
If you found, “How to Get Your Teen to Confide in You Even With the Big Stuff” helpful, you might want to check out these other posts!
The Five R’s of Punishment: Why Harsh Discipline Might Backfire with Your Teen
How to get your teen to confide in you… Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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