Cindy Gullo, LCPC - Therapist & Counselor
The Blog

Talking to Your Teen: 5 Valuable Tips that Work

Mother talks to teen daughter

Talking to a teen? That’s some sort of punchline or oxymoron, right? Attempting to communicate with a teen will drive any parent mad, and I have visited the outer limits of my sanity often. I had concluded that talking to my teen was impossible, but I was not willing to give up. As I searched for answers, I discovered 5 valuable tips that work. Allow me to pass those along.

Learn to Listen

There were two aspects of learning to listen. The first is to realize that hearing words is not listening. To listen, I have to shut off whatever I want to say so that I focus my attention on what my teen is thinking, feeling and saying. The second is to stop interrogating. Without even realizing it, my continuous line of questioning sounds like an interrogation to my teen.

Avoid Lecturing

Did you ever enjoy listening to your parents’ lectures? My lectures use the same words and the same themes that my parents tried to hammer into my stubborn head. They do not work, and Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC points out why. “Instead of learning responsibility, your child is learning how to function in reaction to you.” The best way to get my teen to shut me out is to present a lecture, but to open things up it is far better to engage him in a normal, adult conversation.

Reinforce Their Feelings

My teen has real, legitimate feelings about things that are important to him. He hurts like I do. He worries like I do. He fears like I do. You get the point. In the grand scheme of things, my teen’s emotions are minuscule from my perspective, but to hi,m they are a stark reality. Validating my teen’s feelings is an act of respecting him and applying my stamp of approval to who he is.


On the heels of reinforcing my teen’s feelings is the act of being grateful for the positive things he does and the person he is. cites findings from a study by Sara Algoe, PhD, UNC, in which she affirms that, “giving thanks to those who have helped you strengthens your relationships and promotes relationship formation and maintenance, as well as relationship connection and satisfaction.” Through gratitude, I cultivate a deeper connection with my teen based on mutual respect.

Experience Things Together

Being actively involved with my teen starts meaningful conversations. We have things to talk about which are entirely unrelated to the things that we “need” to talk about. Without recent mutual experiences to remember, future experiences to look forward to and current experiences to enjoy, the only talking I do with my teen relates to whatever issue needs to be solved. Communication needs a relationship and relationship needs shared experiences.

You might notice that the first letters of this list forms the acrostic LARGE. I use “going large” as a reminder of how to approach and maintain open lines of communication with my teen. It works for us, but if you’re struggling with what to say or do and still not getting through, refuse to give up, and contact a therapist for help in communicating with your teen.