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Ask a Professional: Teenager not sharing information with parent

Ask a Professional: Teenager not sharing information with parent

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Linda-ROPro

Ask a Professional: Teenager not sharing information with parent

Hi there, I am a single mum of boy/girl teens, both 14. 

It's tough being on my own sometimes as I feel a lot of the time I am just the good/bad cop. 

Generally I have a great rapport with my teens as a parent and very in tune with them.

But as they have progressed to teenage hood it is sometimes harder to communicate with them. They don’t always want to share or I find they become overwhelmed with their own feelings. 

I am going through a tough time at the moment with my daughter who suffers with depression and anxiety. Recently we have butt heads more. We recently had an instance where I caught her out on not sharing something with me and wouldn't open up to me about the issue (it was really minor in the scheme of things, but it was not the first time I had caught her out in trying to hide something in her bedroom from me. I needed to send her a message, to not fob me off or not feel comfortable in sharing the truth - with hindsight in mind, thinking when it came to more crucial or matters that involved risk, that she would be inclined to hide it from me. I am mindful of the pattern at stake and want to step in and correct it, before such instances occur. I am not naive to think that as teenagers, this will never happen, but I am as a parent, want both my kids to know they can come to me about anything and more so when they are faced with a situation they are really unsure about. I communicate this to them all the time by the way)

Anyway, at first I had said you can't go to a friend's meet up, cos I was expecting her to tell me the truth. She then pulled the mental health card on me and I relented, and said you can go, but I restricted and minimised the time. IN part of the blow up, She shared, she didn't trust me. As a parent, I was shattered. I was also concerned, if she couldn't trust me, who could she trust. IN a time of real need, who would she turn to? 

I guess her struggle with mental health is hard to manage and watch. I too have a history of mental illness I manage and often blame myself, that she is mirroring my own behaviour, yet she has been formally diagnosed and we are dealing with it. living in a region where mental health services are stretched to the max, it is a tightrope walk and just want to use another medium in case it cast some help I hadnt been able to get. I appreciate any constructive comments. thank you

hands4healing

Hi @hands4healing,

It sounds like you are managing to stay really engaged and very caring despite a challenging and stressful situation with your daughter. 

As teens get older, usually the way they communicate with parents changes. This is a natural consequence of their development and growing independence. Teens are at a stage where they are forming close relationships with their peers, and moving from being a child (for whom parents are the primary support) to a more adult way of interacting with the world, where parents are only one of the people they seek support from. Teens also begin to value privacy and autonomy more as they get older. This can mean that teens will sometimes check in with parents less, and will value the opinions of peers more. 

For engaged parents, this can sometimes feel like a step backwards, because their child may start talking to them less. This doesn’t mean that the relationship has deteriorated - it’s more that being in tune with your teen can look and feel different, depending on what stage they are at.

Staying flexible can be the key to keeping a good rapport with your teens as they go through this stage (and you might find your son and daughter go through different stages at different times and in different ways).

It’s really good that you are thinking about how to keep the lines of communication open and how to make sure you and your daughter continue to have a good and supportive relationship through this period. Something that can be helpful in encouraging teens to communicate with you and share their experiences is giving them a sense of space and control over what they share and when. This will likely mean that your daughter at times will tell you less than you’d prefer, but insisting that teens share everything can make them more reluctant to be honest, and can make them feel their parent doesn't trust them.

Of course, this can be challenging emotionally, since you want what is best for your daughter, and want to make sure she is okay. This is really understandable, and it’s important to look after yourself while supporting your teen - talking to other parents can be helpful, as well as making sure you take the time for regular self-care.

It’s okay to have some boundaries and expectations that your daughter does communicate some things to you. It can be helpful to think about what you really need to know, and communicate that with your daughter ahead of time -  for instance, you may have rules about being contactable, or letting you know when she is going out. Being transparent about these boundaries means your daughter will be more likely to respect them, and this helps create a sense of trust, because your daughter knows what you expect of her, and knows what to expect of you.

For a young person with depression and anxiety this can be more complex because of safety concerns, but it’s still important to provide privacy and opportunities for young people to work through issues and make choices regarding communication. 

A collaborative approach can be really effective here - having a chat with your daughter about how you can best support her mental health, including how she can communicate with you when she is having a tough time, and what type of response from you would be helpful.

It must have been very hurtful for your daughter to say she does not trust you. You may find it helpful to wait for a time when you are both calm, and explore with her what trust means for her, and if there are any specific concerns she has. 

Best wishes,

Linda

 

Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.