It can be hard to get a child of any age to confide in you, but it gets harder during the teen years. Most teenagers want to fix their own problems, in private. Unfortunately, the teen years are a time when many young adults still need the help of someone more experienced to deal with their problems. Their problems are becoming more complex and serious, just as they're becoming less willing to ask for help. Keeping communication open is vital. There are a few things you can do to help.
Having things in common with your teen may mean they are more able to confide in you. Don't let her slip away from you as she gets older. Try and maintain one or two regular family rituals you do together, whether that's running errands and stopping for a snack at a favorite café, or having a pampering evening together once a week.
Try and make chatting part of the ritual, so there is always a private, one-on-one, time to talk. Remember that sometimes chatting about the most trivial of things can lead to deeper conversations.
Be open about your past
It's natural to want to set a good example for your teenagers by showing them the best parts of yourself. That's perfectly appropriate. Your teens don't need to know everything about your past life, but if they think you've never made a mistake, or had an unpleasant experience, they won't feel comfortable sharing theirs with you.
Sharing some of the less pleasant things you experienced as a teenager, and how you dealt with them, can help your teenager see you as more human. It can also show him that nothing is insurmountable and that life goes on, even if things seem hard right now.
Be willing to help them fix their problems
Some teenage problems do seem trivial, but if a teenager comes to you with a problem, and you brush it off, or tell them they need to fix it themselves, they may not come to you again. Show interest and offer comfort, even if there's not much you can do. Brainstorm ideas together. Try and help your teen find a way to put things right herself, but if there's a practical solution you can help with, offer to do so. Even if she turns you down, you've shown you're willing to offer real practical help if necessary.
If your child has come to you with a problem, he is trusting you not to be too harsh or judgmental. So, try not to be. It's hard to build trust with teenagers sometimes. When they trust you, respect that. Even if your child is in the wrong, you don't have to be judgmental. You can still help them fix things. Maybe fixing things involves them apologizing or doing something to make amends. Show empathy by acknowledging how hard this can be, but be firm about the fact that you feel it's the right thing to do.
No matter how angry or disappointed you are, if your teen has confided in you, he is looking for a solution. You may want to scold or punish him, but if you do, you may just guarantee he never confides in you again.
At this age, kids get themselves into all sorts of scrapes that don't really need punishment. Often, they are already suffering from the natural consequences of making a questionable choice. Expressing disappointment is fine, but what's done is done. Finding a solution should be a top priority. This is a great opportunity to teach your child to live a life that focuses on looking for solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
We can all benefit from practicing forgiveness in everyday life. If your teen knows how forgiving you are, she'll be more able to admit mistakes. But you can't just tell her that you are a forgiving person, you have to show it. Prove by your actions that you are ready and able to offer forgiveness to those who have made the wrong choices. Your teen will be able to confide in you when she's scared that she may have made a bad choice, too.