5 Ways to Talk to Your Teen {Hint: None of Them Involve Eye Contact}


Everyone has heard the stereotype that teens don’t talk to their parents. First, that’s not always true and second, it may be because you aren’t giving them enough opportunity to talk about themselves, their favorite topic. Sometimes mundane conversations can turn heavy in a jiffy. Wanna take the sting out of it for everyone? Avoid eye contact when you talk to your teen. Everyone will be happier! Plus there is less chance for misinterpreted emotion in your eyes.


Here are 5 easy ways to do it:

1. Driving

This is, in my opinion, the best place to talk about tougher or awkward topics. Why? Everyone is trapped. You can’t really get out of it.

Pro tip: when bringing up a topic don’t say “Can we talk about X”? If you are gonna talk about it regardless of the answer, don’t ask permission. You don’t want to disrespect your teen if you plow ahead despite their answering no. This will be a bad start to the conversation, I promise.

Pro tip #2: Make sure the length of the drive matches the length of the conversation and the destination. Avoid bringing up heated topics on the way to school in the morning. Also avoid tough topics if you have a sibling along.

2. Right before bed with lights out

This space and place works best when your child wants to talk to you about something. When the sun goes down, the worries come out. Worries are nocturnal for many people, not just kids. The brain is often too busy functioning during the day and when all your body has to do is fall asleep, worries sense the opportunity and jump out.

This one will work best if you already say goodnight to your teen. If you don’t, you might wanna try popping in to say goodnight and blow a kiss every so often. If they share a room, spend more time on goodnight when the sibling is at a sleepover or out of the house.

3. Walking the dog

Similar to driving, you are usually walking side by side and facing forward. It’s a good time to just chat with your tween or teen. Invite them along on your walk or ask if you can join them on theirs. Ask about their day, a project at school, some drama you heard about from someone else. Walks can be adjusted if the conversation is going well. Fido won’t mind the longer distance.

4. Folding Laundry

Another time to kill two birds with one stone. You are busy folding and sorting- it’s a perfect time for mindless chatter. If the conversation turns heavy the folding is mindless which will allow you to focus on the matter at hand.

5. Cooking

If you like to cook then this might be easier. If you don’t like it then it could be a time for laughs while you fumble through a recipe together. Again, the idea here is just to start doing something together where the stakes are low.

Teens love talking about themselves and parents are often too busy to really listen. And let’s face it, we don’t always care about the same things they do. These ideas are all places where you are kinda stuck doing something that has to get done anyway. Teens think adults don’t really care about what they really have to say. Prove ‘em wrong.

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Nancy Casey is a family nurse practitioner and owner of Teen Health PDX in NE Portland. She specializes in the health of tweens, teens and young adults. She is passionate about talking to teens and their parents about the stuff no one feels comfortable talking about. She has three tweens and teens of her own that keep her on her toes and make her practice what she preaches every day. Because of this she eats more ice cream than she probably should and snuggles her dog more than he would probably like. She moved to Portland from Chicago 7 years ago and is still amazed at how many hills and mountains there are.