Karyn Ellis, M.A., L.M.H.C.

5 Tips For Talking With Your Teen

Talking with your teen can feel complicated and frustrating at times. Trying to talk with your teen often turns into talking at your teen, which won't get you anywhere. Remember that your teen is trying to hold a balance between responsibility, self-discovery and the pressures they face with social media, reality TV and peer pressure. It is a confusing age developmentally and hormonally. Teens don't try to make things more difficult on purpose.

Here are 5 tips for talking with your teen:


Take a break and don't engage when you’re upset. It is when we are angry we say the things we don’t mean. If you try to talk with your teen when you are upset you are adding fuel to the fire and your teen will either:

Instead, take a deep breath and walk away. Do something active and then come back to the discussion or even create a safe word that it a reminder to take a break and get space.


Remember teens learn from mistakes and you can't protect them from everything. Teens cannot always learn through your examples and mistakes. While they are your child they learn and process differently than you. Also there are some kids that don’t learn until they go through the motions that “oh yeah, that really doesn’t work.” Also there are some life lessons that they need to learn as teens otherwise they will be moving out or going to college at a disadvantage because you kept them from learning through natural consequences.


Don't use I told you so. You are just asking for an eye-roll. Try saying "I am so sorry that happened" or "I don't ever want to see you get hurt." Engage If they want to talk problem-solving, otherwise wait until the obvious moment is over. “I told you so” are fighting words for most teens.


Set boundaries and have rules that are developmentally and emotionally appropriate. Keep in mind rules are not only about age but also about maturity level.


Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no." No flip-flopping or giving into argument. Once you slide a “no” to a “yes” you will be pushed to change your answers in the future. Usually the thought is if you changed your mind once it is only a matter of time or argument that you change your mind again.