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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

OMG! Your teen actually talks to you?

Posted by on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:25 AM
  • 38 Replies



Question: Does your teen talk to you?




Not about the hard stuff

Only group members can vote in this poll.

Total Votes: 44

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OMG! Your teen actually talks to you?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN

updated 6:13 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.  

(CNN) -- They roll their eyes, walk away in a huff, shout "Mom, you don't know what you are talking about" and then slam the bedroom door -- symbolizing the end to any hope of a conversation.

"Teenagers!" parents complain. "Wake me up when they're in college."

As a parent of two girls who will be teens all too soon, I admit I'm more than slightly freaked. But after talking with parents and experts around the country, it appears you can achieve what might seem like the unthinkable -- getting your teen to actually want to talk to you, even about the hard stuff.

Uneeka Jay, a mom of five in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, relies on humor and spontaneity. For instance, when her 15-year-old son Shawn comes to the kitchen for a snack, that might be the exact moment she asks him, "You ever have sex?" out of the blue.

"It's really weird," the high school freshman and basketball star said during a conversation at his family's home, although he admitted he doesn't feel as uncomfortable after the fact.

As a former teenage mom who grew up in a household where sex was never discussed, Jay makes sure her children know she is open to talking about sex as well as drugs, alcohol, bullying -- you name it -- and that she tries to keep it "light" whenever she can.

"We're joking, but then sometimes I've found that conversation becomes serious later where they come back and say, 'Well, hey, this happened or this occurred and I want to talk about it,'" said Jay, a vice president of customer operations for a mobile health services company and the founder of her own company focusing on empowering women and businesses.

'My parents, they've got it going on' 

Vicki Hoefle, author of the book "Duct Tape Parenting," said when parents show they aren't afraid to tackle any subject -- and are willing to showcase their own vulnerabilities, teenagers take notice.

"I think a fearlessness, a fierceness to attack all those scary conversations with the kind of zest that you see in teens makes teens look at their parents like, 'Oh my god. My parents, they've got it going on,'" said Hoefle, a mom of five who has spent the past two decades working with families on parenting.

Tracey Koch, a mom of two, ages 10 and 14, and a nurse practitioner who works with teens, said she finds being candid with her patients and her own children about the mistakes we all make leads to more trust.

"I find that once you confess to also being imperfect, it levels the playing field and teens may feel it's safe to open up," said Koch of Lewiston, Idaho, in a response to a request for comment on CNN's Facebook page. "I tell my children that this is my first experience at raising children and parenting and I am bound to make mistakes."

The mistakes parents make  

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not being honest with themselves about how strongly they already feel about topics such as teens engaging in sex, driving, and using drugs and alcohol, said Hoefle.

If your teen thinks, "I already know what my mom will say about this, so I'm not even going to talk to her," you can forget about your teen opening up to you, she said.

Delia Perez, a mom of two boys ages 9 and 13, said she sometimes has to hold her breath.

"When we talk, I sometimes have to put on my poker face because the overprotective mother wants to emerge and scream 'What the hell?'" said Perez, also in response to our query on Facebook. "My husband and I always try to put ourselves in their position (and) remember when we were their age."

Michelle Staruiala, a mom of three in Saskatchewan, Canada, follows the same advice with her three children, ages 13, 15 and 23.



"I don't judge or make them feel stupid when they have tough questions," she said. "We all know growing up isn't always easy."

'Put duct tape over your mouth' 

The second grave error parents make, Hoefle said, is we talk too much. We need to, quite simply, shut up, and maybe "put duct tape over" our mouths.

"It's like, Oh my god, do you just have to be so smart all the time? Can't you give your kid a chance to be the smartest one in the room? And there's an attitude about stepping back and allowing your child to be the star in the show. That's what secures you a place in the next conversation."

Kelli Caprine, a mom of four in Santa Clarita, California, said to get teens to want to talk to you, you have to refrain from telling them what to do at every turn.

"That would turn my kids off right away. So I would have to just listen and then say, 'Would you like advice?'"

Hoefle strongly encourages parents to take on the mindset of a scientist and ask a "series of open-ended questions" to encourage their teen to open up.

How and where to have the talk  

Equally important, said Hoefle, is understanding how your teens like to communicate -- whether it be while cooking dinner, driving in the car or in a quiet place with zero distractions.

"How to set up the environment that best supports your child is really important," she said.

Stephanie True Fix, a mom of two in South Portland, Maine, said quick car trips tend to be a successful way to get a little bit of information from her children.

"Teenagers may call that a trap, but I call it parental opportunity," said the single mom of two teenagers.

For Carolyn Austin-Haase, a mom of four ages 16 to 26 in Princess Anne, Maryland, the dinner table has been the best place to get her children to unload.

"We have talked about everything under the sun," she said. "Sex, penises, pubic hair, bowel movements, periods, drugs, masturbating, pregnancy, birth control. Our dinner table is not for the faint of heart."

What just about every parent I spoke with and parenting expert Vicki Hoefle stress is that parents need to start early -- well ahead of the teen years.

"You can't wait until your kids are teenagers and quit talking to you to work on the relationship," said Austin-Haase. "It must be done early on."

by on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:25 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by Woodie on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:31 AM

I used humor and and 'inyoface' type of communication with my kids to keep them talking. Come home with a hickey, here's a box of condoms. And a graphic reminder of the dangers of sex.

Yeah we talked. But I admit that we talk far more openly and candidly AFTER the last two years of high school were over.

by Silver Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:36 AM

My daughter didn't tell me everything, thank goodness, but she told me a lot. What she didn't share with me, her friends filled in (FTR, I never asked her friends. They were always chatty and open).

by Mrs. Wahlberg on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:36 AM
My oldest son is new to the teen years. He just turned 13 in November. We still talk, and he asks me questions. I try to answer his questions as honestly as possible. Sometimes I joke and tell him to ask his dad, but we're still close for now and I'm happy that he still talks to me.
by Platinum Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:38 AM
1 mom liked this

We are very open and talk...alot. My oldest is very talkative. She tells me about her day, gossip at school and always tells me about her problems.  My youngest dd is more reserved.  She talks but is more selective.  She is about to turn 13 so nothing major has happened

by Bronze Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:56 AM

We talk.  There are times when she's huffy and defensive and all the other stuff that is common with teenage girls, but there are times when she's open, and I get a really good glimpse into her thinking and what's going on.

by Gold Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 9:02 AM

My 17 year old isn't chatty by nature but if questioned, he does open up. I do find that there are topics that he's more likely to discuss with my husband, rather than me.

by Bronze Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 9:11 AM

I find it helps to go on long walks together.

That way, whatever is on dd's mind seems to come out naturally.

by Ruby Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM
1 mom liked this

Yes, my son and I talk all the time. We always have. He is 16 1/2 and still gives hugs too.

 I'm lucky that I have two wonderful HHPs that are there as well for subjects he doesn't feel comfortable talking to mom about. Of course they steer him to talking to mom about the stuff that is bothering him as well. One of the reasons I love our group so much because we have awsome male role models for DS to talk to. Between HHP J and some of the other folks

by Gold Member on Feb. 20, 2014 at 9:36 AM
3 moms liked this

Yes!!!  And she still wants me to chaperone her school dances, and runs to the car smiley when I pick her up at school...  Not too mention~ tells me everything.... E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G..  Never stops talking! lol.. And, IMO~ that's a good thing!!! But we have had a few moments where I told her she needed to be honest or I will (friend in a bad boyfriend situation, lying to the parents).  And she did.  She hadnled it wonderfully and even the other parent thanked her and us. 

I have been honest with my kids, established the boundaries.  They know they can tell me anything, and we will talk about it.  Even if it is about uncomfortable social stress/pressure/situations.And~ they DO!  It makes my husband uncomfortable how honest our kids are.  Even when they know they are in trouble.  He keeps waiting for the day they stop talking to us...  

Most importnantly, they know we love them, respect them,trust them, and want them to grow up to be confident, honest, responsible, and fun loving! 

by Gina on Feb. 20, 2014 at 9:43 AM
2 moms liked this

Mine aren't teens yet. My oldest is almost 13 though. Less than a month away.

He's already warned me not to get all weepy and cry when my baby turns into a teenager. There was much eye-rolling.

But, at 12 he talks to me.

And I'll also admit that sometimes, I wonder if what he's saying has a point, as he tells long rambling stories that never seem to come to any coherent conclusion.

Then again, when he was a young child, we called him "Stream of Conciousness Man". His brother (17 months younger) was "Non-sequiter Boy". That still kind of works for them.

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