What to do when your teen won’t talk to you

Adolescence is a time of self-exploration, and separation from family members. Sometimes their behaviors and lack of communication lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence or suicide. It is important to recognize some behaviors as either typical adolescent separation or possible emotional and/or mental health problems. Few things hurt like the lack of communication between parents and children. This pain often feels unbearable for both the teen and the parent. There is hope that if the pain is healed, things are usually better than they have been in the past.

What can I do?

  • Take the first step. STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN to what your teen is saying and not saying. Listen more than talk.
  • Do not interrupt when your teen is making a point but request that they give you the same RESPECT when you are speaking.
  • ENCOURAGE your teen to assist you to find solutions.
  • Talk about events and feelings and try not to jump to conclusions.
  • Be aware of WARNING SIGNS indicating possible mental health or emotional problems.
  • Seek outside SUPPORT! Talk with a friend, neighbor, family doctor or church pastor. Participate in family counseling.
  • Ask for HELP. Contact your local Children and Family in Need of Services (FINS) agency for free counseling, support and shelter services. Make an appointment for yourself even if your teen refuses to go with you.


If your teen is depressed or talking about suicide, contact your local mental health agency for an immediate assessment. Contact your local Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADM) office for information on accessing the Family Services Planning Team (FSPT) for services.

  • 24 Hour Toll Free Numbers: 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) 1-800-352-5683