The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking

By Guest Dr. Blogger Barbara Greenberg

I’ve had a career working with teenagers for many years– 21 years to be exact, and have raised some as well. So, I’m in the know. And today, I am ready to share their secrets, so that raising your teens will be an easier and more joyful experience.

Please promise not to tell them that I’m giving up their secrets! But understanding them is the key to a great relationship.

The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking

Alright, I will cut right to the chase.

These are the most common complaints that I hear from the teens:

  • My parents don’t listen.
  • My parents freak out when I try to tell them anything.
  • My parents try to solve all of my problems.
  • My mother tells everyone everything that I tell her.
  • I don’t want to upset or disappoint my mom and dad.
  • My mother asks me a thousand questions at the end of the day and I’m exhausted at that time.

These are the most common complaints that I hear from the well-intentioned but similarly frustrated parents:

The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking

  • My teen doesn’t talk to me.
  • My daughter is so unpredictable. Talking to her is like walking through a minefield. One minute she’s okay with our conversation and the next minute she runs up to her room and slams her door.
  • Why can’t my son answer a simple question like “How was your day?” I’d be thrilled if someone actually asked me how my day was.
  • My teen must hate me.
  • My daughter doesn’t care about how I feel about anything.
  • My teens would be happy if I was never around.
  • All they care about is what their peers think.

So, now you know what most parents and the teens are thinking. Both groups are making assumptions about each other that lead to- YES you’ve got that right-misunderstandings and conflict.


Here is the truth about what the teens really feel:

1. They do want to talk to you, but in a specific way which I will explain in a bit.
2. They do care very deeply about what you think of them and are afraid of disappointing you.
3. They do want you around.

Of course, they won’t admit these things to you. How very un-teenage and uncool would that be!

Here’s the way to get your teens to talk to you and yep, the research and my years of experience prove that these techniques, practiced consistently, will have them actually communicating with you in no time:

The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking

  1. Teens want to talk to you but prefer indirect requests for information. So, instead of asking “How was the date?” try asking “Tell me about the movie.”
  2. Instead of asking “How was your day?’ try asking “What would you love for a snack? You see, if you start with simple dialogue, they don’t feel pressured to give answers and the dialogue will begin.
  3. Now that you’ve got them talking, do NOT interrupt. Remember that most of the time they just want you to listen. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
  4. Unless absolutely crucial-do not try to solve the problem for them. If they are complaining about a friend, for example, just listen. If you criticize the friend and they are best friends again tomorrow, then you will be seen as critical.
  5. Try very hard to neither under or over-react to what they are telling you. Who, after all, wants to talk to someone who begins to freak out?
  6. Do not share their stories unless absolutely necessary and if you have to share the story, let them know that you will be doing just that. Trust is a key ingredient to keeping the dialogue going.
  7. Do not make the conversation about yourself and your teen years. They will see this as you stealing the conversation and perhaps even trying to steal their adolescence. I’m not kidding here.
  8. Give them time to relax and decompress after school and activities and before making conversation. Timing is everything. A hungry and exhausted teen is not likely to be in the mood to talk.
  9. If they don’t want to talk in the moment, let them know that if they want to talk later, you will be available.

Remember that they do want you around. They don’t want you to hover, but when they want to talk, they’d like you to be present physically and mentally. That means not while you’re on the computer or cell phone.

These teen years fly by so quickly. Remind yourself, at the end of the day, your teen really just wants your validation and approval… but don’t expect them to tell you that! 😉

Happy communicating!


Tell Dr. Greenberg, what are YOUR challenges with your teen? Have you figured out a recipe for success when communicating with them? Please share your tips and/or comments.



The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking

Dr. Barbara R. Greenberg, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens and their families, and the author of the bestselling new book called, “Teenage as a Second Language.”She was the program director of an adolescent inpatient unit at a private northeastern psychiatric hospital for 21 years before dedicating herself to private outpatient practice. She is a respected writer, speaker and consultant on teen issues. This book serves as a culmination of her years of research and direct work with hundreds of adolescents and she is proud to say, she really understands what they are saying!  For more information go to

The Secrets Teens Keep and Ways To Get Them Talking


  1. I was a single father of 3 to 3 boys. I still have one boy at home as he finishes his grade 12 year. For me, the car ride was always the best place for my son’s to open up about their current issues or aspirations. It was like therapy. My middle son who was troubled, still managed to open up when he was in the car with me. Maybe it was their safe place, but it sure worked for them. Today, I would rather drive my son to school then send him on the bus, because he talks about his life openly and I don’t want to miss these golden moments of sharing.

  2. I’m a mother of two sons (19 & 20) and I’ve learned the importance of conversing “with” my sons. We as parents sometimes fall into the trap of talking “at” our children (preaching) and not taking the time to listen, respect & consider their opinions. I think kids shut down & sometimes seek solace in outside forces when they feel their feelings aren’t important, which can be very dangerous. There’s a way in allowing openness while still asserting authority.

  3. I agree with Trevor about “car conversation”. I have had some of the best talks with my 2 teenage boys in the car, especially when it is just one of them and me. Some great conversations go on at the dinner table too. When we go several days without eating together they will actually be the ones to ask “When will we all have dinner together this week?” They look forward to the relaxing time and getting “caught up” on family happenings. I always keep a sense of humor — that helps them open up more. And I never, ever forget how I felt as a teenager and respect the fact that they have a lot of those same feelings.

  4. I have 3 kids (14-10-6) and they all have different characters…so basically i need to adapt to each one. Communication is the key to success in every aspect of your life. This is what I do with my kids … when they come home from school or sometime during the evening I spend about 30 mins with each one …alone..and it is their moment to tell me how their day went or even just say something that`s been on their mind. We just talk, laugh or sometimes cry etc…This has given my kids the chance to trust, listen, share private moments. It has worked for me as this has been done since they are little.

  5. I think not constantly being on their case but letting them know you’re always there is a good approach. The more you pester and nag I think the more they will get turned off and keep to themselves.

  6. I’m the mother of three teenage boys, and I have to say that Dr. Barbara is spot on. Timing is everything, otherwise the conversations won’t happen. The car or the dinner table are both effective venues, and I find that starting the conversation around one of their interests (sports or gaming in my household!) is a great way to get them talking… then you can move onto other topics.

    If you have kids who are not yet teens, I suggest you bookmark this posting!

  7. It’s true, i do want to fix EVERYTHING! I see problems and since I think I’m the smartest person on the planet, I think I know all the answers. I have to watch myself or I end up writing about my daughters’ issues in my blog and that’s another bad habit. great blog, thanks! diana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.