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A mental health expert is sharing how parents can connect with their child, even when they won't share what is going on.
"Many times we see our kids struggling emotionally, our heart goes out to them and we want to help them," says Terry Warburton, Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope Counselling in Winnipeg. "We want them to talk about what’s going on. We remember what it was like to be that age. Honey, what’s wrong? I can tell something is bothering you."
Warburton says it's common for parents to have children that opened up to parents become more silent as they mature in adolescents.
"To understand why our teens might not want to talk to us about their problems, it is helpful to understand how the brain and emotional development plays into all of this. During early adolescence, around the age of 10-12, the brain experiences massive changes, and part of this change is the intensity of how emotions are experienced. They can be very intense and overwhelming."
One key to getting through this time as a parent is simply to be present and for parents to let their children know they are there for them.
According to Psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour, there are four main reasons why children and teens don't want to talk to their parents.
"The first is that they know what you’re going to say. For example, if your teen is upset because they got a low mark on a test, they might feel that you will tell them “I told you so” and that they should have studied harder for the test. Another reason they might not have much to say is that they have already spent some time thinking, processing and talking to friends, and it’s not feeling urgent to them anymore."
Another reason may be that teenagers are confused with exactly how they feel about a topic, and therefore communicating it to a parent is difficult if they can't even express it to themselves.
"The fourth reason why teens might not want to talk about how they’re feeling is that they are concerned that you are going to 'blab' it to someone else - a relative, friend and that their confidentiality is going to be breached."
In that scenario, Warburton says it's important for a parent to own that, and let the child know they will not share their feelings with others.
"As parents, we can’t be accessible all of the time, but we can work hard to be around, and to be available when those moments happen - which we usually can’t plan for. We can comfort a teen even if we don’t know what’s wrong. We can say, "Hey, you seem upset. I’m going to make you some hot chocolate," or "Hey, let’s walk the dog together.""