Understanding teenage behaviour: Why do teenagers struggle to share their problems and feelings to their parents?

By Adiy Akhtar

You are not alone when you feel as though your teenager is drifting away from you, becoming secretive and not confiding in you anymore. It can be confusing as to why they do not open up to you like they used to when they were a child. It is important to understand why they may refrain from sharing their personal issues and struggles with you, as their parent or carer. 

Teenager’s lives revolve around their friends, relationships, hobbies and school. There is so much they experience while making their way to adulthood, yet it is easy for parents to misunderstand them, forgetting how they once were as teens themselves. Often as parents you may subconsciously overlook problems that your child may rant to you about, that you perceive as minor issues. As a teenager, this can feel as though their parent does not understand them, or simply just does not care. It can be difficult trying to find a balance between allowing your teenager to feel free, spreading their wings to grow and on the other hand supporting them emotionally, making them feel seen and heard. 

This article will shed some light on why teenagers find it difficult confiding in their parents, what these issues may be and to try and understand your teenagers and support them in the most suitable way. 

What may teenagers hide from their parents?

Teenagers are challenged everyday with social issues and daily life hassles. Their behaviour can sometimes be worrying for a parent and can be caused by something deeper than you may think. When a teenager is going through relationship problems, it can seriously affect them, yet they may hide this from their parents. Sexual relationships are also typically kept secret, which can be more serious when considering controlling and abusive relationships. Every teen will experience friendship problems, which in some cases leads to more serious cases of bullying. Depression and anxiety symptoms are common in teenagers, and many do not know how to deal with this and often avoid seeking help. This can even lead to suicidal thoughts, in worse cases. Drugs and alcohol use is commonly hidden from parents due to being underage and breaking the law. Breaking the law by committing other criminal activities such as shoplifting and vandalization is unsurprisingly not shared with parents when they do not get caught by police. 

Why do teens choose not to share these issues with their parents?

There are numerous reasons why teens may withhold sharing their problems and showing their emotions to their parents. Most teenagers feel as though their parents do not understand what they are going through. It can be hard to understand, but sometimes all they need is acceptance to listen, sympathise and support. 

One of the main reasons is due to fear of judgement and disappointment. It can be daunting sharing personal matters when you think your parent may respond in a judgemental way and potentially cause you to feel worse. As well as this or instead you may become angry, not knowing how to remain calm in the situation. If you tend to become frustrated, a teenager will avoid receiving this reaction again. As well as this, teens tend to avoid adding more stress to their parents’ lives. Sometimes, the last thing your child wants to do is cause you to worry about them. This can be the case especially when you may be busy with work, other children, and your own stresses. As a parent, your first instinct is attempting to solve your child’s problem, involving yourself in the matter to help. This is not always the best approach as your teenage child does not want you to fix their problems, but rather listen and support them with advice. A lack of trust between parent and child can lead to issues with confiding in one another. If an individual has never built trust and a strong bond with their parent, it can create a barrier between the two of them sharing problems. 

What can you do to help your teen feel more comfortable opening up?

For a teenager, respecting their privacy is important as this allows them to develop into their own confident and independent individual. You do not want to interfere with this, therefore there must be a balance between your child’s private life and making sure they are safe. You can do this by building a trustable relationship with them where they feel comfortable to willingly share personal issues with you. 

Try not to minimise their feelings or a situation which may be bothering them. This involves passing comments which can make them feel as though their issues are insignificant, reducing the likelihood of them confiding in their parent again. If you feel it could help, perhaps share stories of when you were a teenager, dealing with similar issues. This would help reassure them that they are not alone with their struggles whilst building a stronger connection with you as their parent. 

Always listen from an open-minded perspective, try not to jump to conclusions or assumptions. Sometimes all anyone needs is to be heard, not necessarily someone to tell us what to do or give their opinion. Gentle reassurance from a parent is never unappreciated, you can support with reassurance rather than solutions to situations which you may never have experienced, therefore most likely do not know how to resolve. 


It is important to respect your teenager’s boundaries, whilst attempting to support them with their issues. Pressuring them to open up will only result in them being more distant from you. Build an honest bond together to feel closer, gain trust and confide in one another. Trust is the key to a close bond between parent and teenager.

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