Dealing With a Teen Who’s Upset But Won't Talk? Try These 7 Words to Get Them to Open Up

teenage girl using phone and computer in bed 1

Even pre-Covid-19, being a teenager was a tough gig (so. many. hormones.). But now that their school and social life have been completely disrupted, it’s even more challenging. And your child would have to be superhuman to not be feeling at least a little stressed. But even though you know your teen is having a difficult time, whenever you try to ask her how she’s feeling, she just shrugs (or worse, slams the door). 

So, what’s a concerned parent to do? Try this creative tip from psychiatrist Dr. Mark Goulston: Tell your kid that you have seven words you want to ask them about.

Chances are, your despondent teen will look up from her phone (at least for a brief moment) and answer with a “Huh!” or “What?” 

Now, in as calm and inviting tone as you can, say: “Hurt, afraid, angry, ashamed, alone, lonely, tired... pick one.” Then, when she responds with one of the emotions, you can follow-up with a, “tell me about it.”

Why does this work? It’s basically an easier intro into a tricky subject and much less confrontational than saying, “Tell me what’s wrong!” This also helps your kid assign a word to their emotions, a key skill in self-reflection and self-soothing, says psychiatrist Paul C. Holinger.

Hopefully, this technique will also give you plenty of opportunities to gently probe further (like asking, “When that happened, what did you think?” or “What can we do to make things better?”).

3 Things to Tell Your Teen All the Time (and 4 to Avoid), According to a Therapist

img 0936

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...