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What To Do as a Parent When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Talk

What To Do as a Parent When Your Teen Doesn't Want to Talk

Navigating the silence of a teen as a parent can be so frustrating as every step forward seems to lead to dead ends of uncertainty. Picture this: you buy your teen’s favorite cookies and cannot wait to share them when they return from school. Only for them to get back, not reply to your enthusiastic greeting, and walk past you without acknowledging your goodies. As a parent, you may feel hurt and wonder where everything went wrong and whether you are failing as a parent.

This guide sheds more light on why your teenagers may resist communication. Understanding the whys is important in navigating the volatile yet necessary communication between you and your teen. The guide will also outline how to respond to teen resistance and the strategies for maintaining a good relationship with your resistant teen.

Understanding Teen Resistance and Its Roots

Resistance is a normal and natural aspect of the teen phase. However, not all teen resistance is hormonal. It may be because of underlying issues that are yet to be solved. Teen resistance stems from many things, and understanding why your teenager is adamant about communicating is important.

Emotional Causes

Teenagers often shy away from communicating when they have a lot of unresolved emotional issues. Some of these issues include:

  • Difficulty in expressing themselves: Your teen may find it difficult to talk about their feelings without feeling that they are going to be judged. They may convince themselves that not talking about it is a perfect way to convey that they are not okay.
  • Anxiety: Your teen may be overwhelmed by many things, like their academic performance or socializing with peers, which may impede communication.
  • The desire for autonomy: Teens love to be independent and may resist communicating with parents or guardians as a way to figure out their problems on their own.
  • Mood swings: Fluctuating hormones may also factor in your teen resisting communication.

Behavioral Signs of Resistance

Some of the behavioral signs of teen resistance include:

  • Silence and withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Disrespecting authority
  • Nonverbal cues like eye rolling
  • Selecting which questions to answer or which conversations to engage in.

Recognizing these signs helps parents to communicate to their teenagers with empathy and understanding, addressing underlying emotional needs.

Strategies for Responding to Teen Silent Resistance

Silent teen resistance may be tough to handle as compared to active rebellion. In silent resistance, it is impossible to understand why your teenager is acting out as they are not open to communicating where the problem is. Some of the ways to get your teenager to talk about their issues include:

Respecting Space and Boundaries

Your teenager’s unwillingness to communicate may be because they have not found the right time or way to talk about their struggles. Respecting their space and setting healthy boundaries is the best strategy. Giving them their space reiterates that you trust them to make calculated decisions. Eventually, when ready, they will open up to you.

You also want to show your teenager that you are concerned about their well-being without coming off as an intruder. Communicate your concerns, and remind them you are always available to talk whenever they are ready. Show your teen you support them irrespective of how long they take to reach out. Not asking prying questions is also a good way to respect their privacy.

Non-Verbal Communication

There are several non-verbal ways to show your silent, aggressive teen that you care about them.

Some of these ways include:

  • Acts of service: Show your teen you care about them through your actions. You can make their favorite meal, water their plants, or groom their pets. 
  • Physical presence: Sitting quietly with your teen may go a long way in showing you care. A comfortable silence eludes comfort and may provide the assurance your teen needs.
  • Do an activity together: Participate in activities that your teenager enjoys. A shared experience is a good way to bond with your teen and assure them that you still care about them regardless of their behavior.
  • Affirm them: You can affirm your teenager by writing cute little notes about how much you love and care for them. You can also give them intentional gifts they have been wanting to have.

Managing Disrespect and Rebellious Behavior Of Your Teen

When faced with a disrespectful teen, you are often tempted to discipline the teen and remind them who is in charge. You, however, must understand that not all time is a disrespectful teenager being spiteful. Your teen may have an underlying issue that needs to be resolved, causing them to act out. Dealing with rebellious teenagers requires a set of guides and rules to prevent the situation from escalating.

Staying Calm and Composed

Staying calm may be the last thing that crosses a parent’s mind when dealing with a disrespectful teen. However, calmness has many benefits as it helps you approach the situation soberly. One of the ways to remain calm is breathing. Breathing is the best technique for managing stress. Take deep breaths, and leave the problem until you calm down. You can also have a specific mantra to chant in your head or listen to a podcast to de-escalate your anger.

Setting and Maintaining Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is important in dealing with rebellious teenagers. Communicate acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Remind your teen that unacceptable behaviors have consequences. You also want to use assertive communication and remind them that you mean your words, the boundaries are solid, and bad behavior is punished.

Encouraging Openness Without Forcing Conversations

You realize your teen may be going through something they do not want to discuss. The first instinct? To pester them into telling you what is bothering them. Pestering might seem like a good strategy to get your teen to open up, but not always. Repeatedly asking your teen what is wrong with them might push them away into more solitude. The next time you want to encourage your teen to open up without forcing conversations out of them, consider doing the following:

Creating a Safe Environment for Sharing

An ideal environment is one of the best strategies to get your resistant teen to open up. A Safe environment can be created in three easy steps:

  • Build trust: Show your teenager that you can be trusted with their secrets and concerns. Be a good confidant, and ensure your teenager’s discussion remains with you.
  • Active listening: Go to the conversation with a listening mindset. Listen to their perspective and ask for clarifications where you do not understand.
  • Empathy and validation: Validate your teenager and reassure them that it is okay to feel how they feel. Encourage and remind them that they have your support.

You can also initiate indirect communication with your teen. Some ways to indirectly communicate with your teen include written communication or sign language. You can also decode your teenagers’ communication by body language.

Using Indirect Questions

Gentle inquiring about your shut-down teen is more effective than asking firm, direct questions. Direct questions may come off as too intrusive, and you do not want your teen to feel like they are being investigated. Questions like “What made you smile today?” or “I notice you have been looking down lately? Is there anything you would love to discuss?” are more likely to get your teen to open up.

Supporting a Shy or Introverted Teen

The meanings of shyness and introversion are often interchanged, but the two have very distinct characteristics. Shyness is the feeling of discomfort when in social settings. Shy people tend to be self-conscious, believing all eyes are on them and not for a good cause. Shyness is not a medical condition; it is normal unless it causes physical or emotional pain.

Introversion, however, refers to preferring to focus on your thoughts rather than express them. Introverts tend to love their space and avoid interacting with the masses unless necessary. Introverts may appear shy when, realistically, they prefer spending time with a small group or a few trusted friends. One of the ways to ascertain whether you are an introvert or just shy is to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Tests to ascertain your personality type or talk to a professional.

Approaching shy or introverted teens may not be as easy as extroverts. Some of the tips to use in a conversation include:

  • Practice patience. Be patient with your teenager; do not expect them to communicate on your terms. Give them time to open up when ready.
  • Create a safe space: Create an environment free from judgment and criticism. Actively listen to your teenager, validate them, and make them feel heard and seen.
  • Respect their limits: Understand that your teen will not talk past a certain limit. Instead of forcing them to keep communicating, acknowledge their efforts and encourage them to open up when they deem fit.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Nonverbal cues are a good way to understand your teen more. They may not communicate their thoughts; however, you can tell their opinions or attitudes on a subject through their body language.
  • Bond over hobbies: Find an activity that interests both of you. Bonding over common interests will likely put your shy teenager at ease, making it easy for them to open up.

Encouraging Social Interactions

Encouraging a shy or introverted teen to socialize with their peers can be difficult. It requires a balance between socializing and trying not to overwhelm them. Here are some of the useful yet tactful tips you can use to get your shy teen to interact with others.

  • Start small: Begin by planning small socialization groups for your teenager. It can be chess or organizing a little get-together with a couple of friends.
  • Respect their boundaries: Understand that your teen has preferences and boundaries they want to maintain in socialization. Listen to them, understand their boundaries to ensure you do not violate their autonomy,
  • Suggest hobbies: Hobbies are a perfect way to get teenagers to socialize as they do what they love. You can also enroll them in clubs where they can meet like-minded peers.
  • Acknowledge your teen’s efforts; Recognize your shy teenager’s attempt at socializing. You can also reward them when they initiate conversations or make new friends.
  • Be patient- An introvert may take a while to get accustomed to socializing. Be patient, listen to them, and remind them that you support their decisions.

What to Do When Teens Completely Shut Down

Shutting down in a teenager is usually a sign of a more underlying issue and not just adolescent mood swings. Teens rarely shut down; therefore, as a parent, uncovering why your teenager went mute is advisable.

Recognizing Complete Withdrawal

Understanding the signs of a completely shut-down teenager is crucial in getting them the help they need. Some of the ways to identify a teenager who has completely shut down include: 

  • Minimal conversations: Your teen may reply to your questions with one-word replies or ignore you altogether.
  • Change in communication patterns: Your teen may go from being chirpy, talkative, or expressive to an aloof person who could care less about a conversation
  • Using nonverbal cues: Instead of communicating, the teen may use nonverbal cues like nodding their head or making facial expressions to get their points across
  • Solitude: Your teen may prefer being all alone to interacting with friends or family.
  • Using written communication. Some teens may refuse any form of verbal communication and instead use a written form of communication.
  • Avoiding eye contact during conversations and becoming frustrated when conversations are initiated.

Seeking Professional Help

If you suspect your teen has completely shut down or is at risk of shutting down, seeking professional help is important. When you notice that their symptoms are persisting or they are finding it hard to cope, ensure you see a mental health provider immediately. At Nexus, we have licensed therapists who work to treat all your teenager’s mental health concerns.

We also offer comprehensive treatment plans for teens struggling with mental and behavioral challenges. To seek help, contact us to find the perfect way to get your teenager the help they deserve. We will provide guidance and support to determine the best care appropriate for your teenager.


Teen resistance to communication is normal as they grow up; therefore, as a parent, you need to assess the reason behind your teenager’s unwillingness to communicate. Understanding the lead causes of resistance, like emotional issues and signs of resistance, is a good way to approach communication with your teen effectively. Understanding the strategies for fostering communication with your resistant teen is also crucial in creating a safe environment that encourages communication.

It is also recommended that you seek professional help when your teenager’s resistance to communication escalates. At Nexus Academy, we work with parents to understand their teenager’s emotional and behavioral issues. We also provide treatment tailored specifically for your teen’s mental health needs and concerns. For more information, consider contacting us and let us figure out the best treatment plan together.

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