Why your teen doesn’t want to talk to you — and what to do about it

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When your kids are really young, they’ll inadvertently tell you about every single bump, bruise and boo-boo. When they get a little older, all you have to do is tuck them into bed and, as if they’ve been administered truth serum, all of the day’s confusions seep out of their mouths. But by the time they get to their tweens or teens, single syllable answers like “fine” and “OK” can easily replace the nuanced details they used to share about the day’s interpersonal dealings.

“Between 11 and 14 there definitely is a shift,” says Joshua Srebnick, a child psychologist in New York City. “It’s a profound time of identity formation, where they start to rely on their peer groups and pull away from some of the ways of the past to become their own person.”

Around the age of 12 and 13, Srebnick says this can mean your kid no longer feels the need to give you the play-by-play of the day. “The birth of self-awareness can spark this desire to disconnect a little from your parents,” Srebnick explains. “They need their parents so much in some ways yet want to go out there and do their thing. And so this is the birth of one-word answers. The idea of having to explain all the highs and lows of their day seems impossible.”

Yet, it behooves parents to know something of their kids’ business during these years. According to a 2015 study, kids who have positive relationships with their parents are less inclined to engage in risky behavior. And teens are prone to risk-taking because the frontal lobes their brains — the part that rules reasoning and risk mitigating — simply isn’t developed yet. “A child’s brain develops from back to front. They don’t have the judgment to moderate their impulsivity,” says Frances Jensen, MD, FACP, Professor of Neurology at Penn Medicine, and author of “The Teenaged Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.”

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