Is talking to your teen exasperating? Do you only seem to get monosyllabic answers like “okay” and “fine” and at times, only a grunt?

It is quite common for parents to not being able to have a conversation with their teenager. Sometimes these “cold spells” could last a few days, months or years. The teenage years see your child live a life that you are not necessarily a part of, and that could be upsetting for parents.

Here are three situations that might explain the “cold spells” and how you could ease the communication barrier with your teen.

#1 You Nag at Them

Family life trainer and father of 2 teenage sons, Mr. Amos Ang, expressed that when a child reach their adolescent years, they will no longer appreciate instructions dictating their every move. To teenagers, telling them what to do, where to go, and how to get things done is perceived as nagging.

Mr. Ang’s son, Nathan, shared that he is grateful for a father who allows him to talk through about something than to talk him out of it. He once purchased an expensive race bike with his own money although his father voiced his qualms. Nathan later revealed to his father that he’d only used it thrice and admitted his regret. From this experience, Nathan had learned to value his father’s counsel more and to re-evaluate before making a final decision in the future.

What You Can Do:
The next time your teen has a lapse in judgement, try rephrasing your statement as a question. Ask “Tell me what happened…”, “What did you learn” and “what would you do differently next time?” rather than using an accusatory tone such as “Why didn’t you tell me before?!”

When your teen begins talking, don’t jump in with comments or thoughts until they finish talking. Ditch the lecture and offer a listening ear instead. Remember that your teenager is still immature and learning and is bound to make some mistakes.

“[Parents] have to be willing to listen, be open to what they have to say, and suspend all judgment or disapproval,” advised Mr. Ang. It is natural that teens become more willing to listen to advice or their parents’ insight after they express themselves and feel heard.

#2 You Lack Quality Time with Them

Parents should understand that while their teen demand more freedom and independence, they also require family time and love. The lack of quality time makes it difficult for your kid to talk to you about their issues without distractions.

The time spent with your teen is rewarding for both parties. Parents can offer insights to their teen, instill a sense of belonging, and establish the importance of family values. In turn, teenagers will get the assurance that their parents will be there to support them, which makes them feel loved and increases their self-worth.

What You Can Do:
Quality time does not require much planning or money. Mr Ang shared that he makes it a point to have breakfast together with Nathan every Sunday. They will reflect on the week while affirming and encouraging each other. “If he had misbehaved at home during the week, I will also take this time to bring it up to him,” shared Mr. Ang.

All parents can plan out a simple, weekly ritual to allow themselves the opportunity to guide their child towards the right values in preparation for adulthood.

#3 You Don’t Keep Your Cool

Parenting requires a lot of patience. Losing your temper with a teenager only puts a temporary band aid over the situation and neglects the root of the argument. If you force them to obey by giving them an ultimatum, more often than not, teenagers will only remember feeling hurt and may resent you for shouting at them.

Teenagers will walk away from the argument, while the issue remains unsolved and forgotten in the heat of the argument. They will also lose the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills or manage their emotions towards issues responsibly.

What You Can Do:
Parents should walk the talk. Children are very observant and often emulate your behavior. Teach your teen the right way to air their differing opinions and express their frustrations appropriately.

If you find that yourself getting angry frequently, you may want to let your spouse manage the issues first while you address your emotions . It will also be good to take responsibility for your flare-ups and admit to your teenager your own shortcomings.

During conflicts, it is important that all parties remain calm and try to see things from each other’s perspective and work towards finding common grounds. “Conflicts are part and parcel of life, but it’s how we handle them that makes the difference,” advised Mr. Ang.

This article was written in collaboration with Focus On The Family Singapore , a local charity with IPC status, dedicated to empower families in Singapore with skills to build strong families and raise resilient kids.