Sick of the silent treatment? Get your kids to open up with these expert ice-breakers.

By Lisa Lombardi
January 18, 2018

This is how a conversation with my 14-year-old goes:

“How was your day?”

No answer.

“How was the math test?”

Mumbled grunt words that make me think I need a hearing aid.

“What’s new?”

“What?” [Looks at phone.]

If you ever find yourself peppering your kid with questions only to get a crumb of a reply, congrats: You’re the parent of a typical middle-schooler.

One-sided conversations are actually developmentally healthy at this stage, says Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, a Utah-based child therapist. “Older tweens in particular are starting to develop a sense of identity that is separate from their parents,” she says. Translation: They’re less likely to share their feelings and details about their life.

It’s all part of healthy separation—though it can be maddening for those of us craving heart-to-hearts. “When a child starts pulling back and sharing less, you may feel a sense of loss, and wonder what happened to your close relationship,” Hanks says. Do. Not. Fear. Your bond is still there, unspoken.

Still, sometimes a parent needs information. And we long to know what’s worrying our kids, or making their day. Here are Hanks’s favorite strategies for getting the conversation going.

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