A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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We dare to unlock the teenage mind to learn what your teens really wants to talk about


Teenagers can be scary – beware! One teen alone can take on many different forms, and often parents don’t know which one they’re going to get.  Happy and hyper? Surly and sullen? Agitated with attitude?

When one approaches you must be prepared for anything even though it’s usually something like, “Can I eat the rest of the chicken wings?” But sometimes a teenager leaves their room to have an actual – gasp – conversation with their parents.  Like, on purpose.

My parent friends agree that with so much on our minds, conversations often turn into what we are thinking about, such as chores, schoolwork or family plans… and then Boom! Argument. Doors are slamming.

Licensed Professional Counselor Brad Abel, owner of Rethink Therapy, says to keep conversations from becoming arguments, parents need to simply listen.

“It’s not about the questions. It’s about the answers,” he says. “Are you really listening to your kids or are you looking for an entry point to lecture them?”

A productive and informative conversation is what parents say they want. And teenagers actually want that, too.

“Kids are just like their parents, they want to be heard and validated,” says Abel. “When your teenager shuts you out, it’s because teenagers are just like everybody else. Nobody wants to talk to someone if they think they aren’t being heard.”

But how can we have the conversations if we don’t know what to ask?  And what are we asking that is possibly deterring our teens from talking to us more? This begs the question – what does my teen actually want to talk about, and how can I be for them what they need right now?

I asked them. I reached out to more than a dozen teenagers – Jewish and not Jewish; white, Black, Asian and mixed; girls and boys. Let’s listen and learn from them.

Question: What do you want your parents to ask you about?

“I wish my parents would ask me about my mental health, stuff like anxiety about college or my confidence within myself with regards to sports and school.”

“Ask more about how I’m feeling, how my day was, or what I’m excited for.”

“Ask about my friendships more. They don’t really know my friends and I don’t want them to think of my friends in a bad way because of the way they look or things they might have done in the past.”

“I would like them to ask how I’m doing with the option of me saying as much or as little as I want.  Also asking more about my interests, but they don’t always know what I’m interested in.”

Question: What do you want your parents to stop asking you about?

“I feel like my parents are only focused on my education and what is going on at school. My time with them is my time away from school, so I don’t want to talk about school more.”

“Stop asking me about sports practices or if I have a bad practice, leave it at that. I don’t like talking about my bad practices and them trying to figure it out or find a reason I had a bad practice. I would rather move on.”

“Things they know I am not looking forward to or know I have less motivation to do, like schoolwork. When I know I have missing work for school and my parents keep bugging me about it, I am less inclined to complete that assignment because in a way I feel like I’m only doing it to please them rather than taking that time to better myself.”

“Sometimes I feel awkward talking about personal stuff about my friends because I trust my parents, but I also feel like I am betraying my friends at times.”

“Stop asking me about my love life because if I wanted to tell them I would have already, and they would know if I had a serious relationship. “

Question: What do you wish you could talk to your parents about but don’t always feel like you can?

“I wish I could talk to them more in depth about my future, less about what I want to do, and more about anxiety surrounding an uncertain future.”

“I feel like I cannot discuss more serious issues with my parents such as if my friends are struggling or my own health or my feelings like if I am interested in someone and want to ask them on a date.”

“How I’m truly feeling, the stress I am dealing with. I want to tell them the good and bad, but some things feel uncomfortable to bring up. I don’t want to cause them any stress with my problems.”

Good news – the kids these days say their parents are doing a pretty good job at keeping communication open, and being approachable to discussing all kinds of topics. Yet we can still be better with time and patience.

“You can’t expect immediate results,” says Abel. “Most of us thought our parents didn’t know anything. If the relationship is strong, eventually your kids will realize they weren’t so smart and you weren’t so dumb.”

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