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What To Do When Your Teenager Doesn’t Want To Talk

What To Do When Your Teenager Doesn’t Want To Talk

If you are a parent of a teenager or have a teenager in your life, chances are there are many times your teenager does not want to talk. This can be really hard on you — believe me, I understand. When my daughter started middle school, I wanted to know everything: how her day was, how her friends were, what her sports practices were like. It didn’t take me long to realize that she didn’t want to share every aspect of her life with me. Sometimes, she just didn’t want to talk.

This was really hard on me. Sometimes I would ask her a question and she would point blankly say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” So, I’d tried rewording it. That didn’t work. It usually took about three times of her saying she didn’t want to talk about it for me to give up. Giving up doesn’t always seem like the best solution, so what can we do?

According to Holly Brown, LMFT, in an article titled Why Your Teen Doesn’t Talk to You, “If you can realize some of the things you’re doing that are accidentally off-putting to your child, you’ll be better able to connect with him or her.” She goes on to say that as a therapist, she meets with teenagers who normally don’t talk a lot with their parents but open right up with her. She is not doing anything magical; it’s more what she is not doing. Here is her list:

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1. I’m not doing anything other than talking to them.

2. I’m not telling them the “right” way to do things.  

3. Mostly, I’m not commenting; I’m asking questions. And not questions that I already know the answer to, or where I’m trying to get them to give a certain answer I’ll find pleasing.

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4. I don’t interrupt, even when I can guess where something is going. 

5. I don’t tell them that I’m the parent, and they just have to do as I say. 

In her last paragraph, Brown says, “You can ask your kids for feedback on how you’re doing as a parent. You can show that you care what they think and feel. Then you can incorporate that into how you do things in the future. An open dialogue doesn’t undermine your authority. It actually enhances it.”

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In my own personal experience, I just had to give my daughter the space she needed. Often, I would tell her I was there for her if she ever wanted to talk about anything. I didn’t stop asking questions and caring about her life, but I did show more respect when she didn’t want to talk. I also worked at just being with her and not talking all the time. For instance, one time we drove from one town to another in complete silence. It was about a 30-minute drive. It about killed me. It took a lot of self discipline not to talk. I just thought I would be quiet and see if she wanted to talk. She didn’t and I believe it was a nice experience for her to just ride with her mom in a car without having to talk about a thing.

This daughter is now in high school and she is much more open than she used to be. I think she knows I respect her and I am here for her. I love it when she shares things about her life with me. I think when I started respecting her, believing in her, and giving her a little more space, she felt it and grew on her own.

As my wise grandma told me, “This too shall pass.” Sometimes, we just need to be patient and realize the teenage years will pass, and we will just do our best while getting through them.

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Featured photo credit: Emma Craig/Aren’t teenagers pleasant? via flickr.com

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Tomi Rues

Adjunct college teacher, notebook/journal designer, author

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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