Text it out: How to get your teen to talk


We all want to have meaningful conversations with our kids about difficult subjects. But how do you get them to open up?


Health professionals faced the problem. They needed teenagers and young adults to be frank about sensitive and embarrassing issues. Australian researchers Sally Bradford and Debra Rickwood thought clinicians might be able to use technology to reach their younger patients. They asked 129 people between the ages of 12 and 29 years whether they thought answering questions electronically for initial assessments would help them open up.


Most young adults did think an electronic assessment before a counseling session could help begin sensitive conversations. Some cited the ability to edit responses and take time to ponder the questions as helpful.  Others believed they would face less judgement from a device than a person. Some young people felt an electronic assessment gave them more control over the conversation and helped them talk about what they wanted to talk about.


There were some young adults who would rather just talk than use an e-tool. They expressed the concern that professionals would miss non-verbal cues through using the electronic assessment.


What can we learn from this study about talking to our teenagers? For many young adults, technology is their comfort zone. They like time to think over and rephrase responses during difficult conversations. They fear and even expect judgement from people. They feel that sometimes they don’t actually talk about what matters to them during sensitive conversations. They also recognize the importance of non-verbal cues in communication.


The key to getting teenagers to open up could be a little time and a little distance. A text that says, “Hey, can we talk about your weekend plans tonight?” gives the teenager time to prepare for that conversation. A calm response rather than an emotional one could make a teen feel more willing to talk about difficult subjects. A “Hey, did we talk about everything you wanted to talk about?” or even “Text me if you think of any questions” could help your teen feel heard and leave the door open for future talks.


If you wanted, you could even administer an electronic weekly “state of mind” survey to make your techy teen feel more at home.


Whether they text it out, type it out, or talk it out, your teens will feel 🙂 😀 <3 knowing you want to get the message.


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