Is it a familiar scenario?
Something is off with your teenage daughter. Her shoulders slump and her head hangs low. She’s not acting her usual self and seems preoccupied with her phone. You can tell something is wrong, so you ask, “Honey, it looks like something is troubling you. What’s wrong?” She reacts sharply, “Nothing Mom!” Your worry deepens, “Are you sure? I can tell something’s up. Let’s talk about it. It will help.” She bursts out in anger, “You are so nosy! Why do you always ask so many questions!?! I don’t want to talk about it, especially with YOU!” She storms away and you hear her door slam.
How to interpret this behavior and what do parents need to do about it?
One of the most difficult parts of parenting is letting go. Letting go of the expectation that your teen will open up to you about everything. Letting go of the fact that you can’t (and shouldn’t) solve her problems. And, letting go of taking it personally when she rejects your help or responds to your caring questions with one-word answers.
As your teen gets older, she will naturally want to keep parts of her life private. There will be situations she doesn’t want to share with you for fear of being misunderstood or perhaps punished. She will hold things in because she doesn’t know how to start a difficult conversation. She may not share challenges because she wants to exercise her independence and prove she is capable of dealing with problems on her own.
So, when your teenage daughter doesn’t want to talk with you, who does she turn to?
As you might expect, she is most likely to turn to her peers, but in many cases, teens don’t fully open up to friends for fear of being betrayed or having their innermost feelings made into gossip. And when they do discuss their challenges with peers, they run into the difficulty of talking to those who don’t have the life experience of an adult and who may not have the right intentions or offer sound advice.
Teens need trusted adults outside their family and friends, whom they can turn to when they don’t want to talk to peers or parents. When teen girls have other adults in their lives who help them navigate challenges, the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior is significantly lowered. This kind of support benefits everyone; parents breathe a sigh of relief knowing their teenage daughter has a safe and trusted outlet and girls gain a broader perspective and a healthy sense of competence when they work with someone who coaches them on how to move forward with confidence and grace.