Questions have a proper place in communication. However when questions are bombarded onto a child, or the familiar question-and-non-response pattern kicks in, questions then become communication stoppers.
Parent: Where were you last night?
Parent: I know you were out, I asked you where you were.
Teen: Well I wasn’t here.
Parent: Obviously I know you weren’t here – where were you?
Who were you with?
When did you get home?
Why didn’t you let us know your plans?
Were you with that Smith boy that we don’t like?
Teen: I’m tired. I’m going to bed.
One way to deal with ambivalence – he may want to self-disclose yet is hesitant to do so – is not with a barrage of questions but rather by recognizing and reflecting back. Perhaps it can be difficult to talk about some things; reflecting that fact helps to promote understanding: “I know you might not want to talk about it right now… When you like to discuss it?”
Another way is to invite a discussion rather than trying to force one.
Parent: We were worried about you last night. Want to talk about it?
Teen: Not really.
Parent: I can see that you’re tired and look a little troubled.
You know you can talk to me anytime.
Teen: I know. I don’t feel like it right now.
Parent: OK. Maybe later.
Teen: Yeah, OK. Maybe later.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: There is a right way and a wrong way to question teens, and excessive bombarding of questions is rarely the right approach to take. Slow and steady, soft and easy keeps emotions in check and smoothes out communication hurdles – as long there is no imminent danger present. This is not to suggest setting aside asking about serious issues, which absolutely need discussion. It’s the way that the questions are asked that can impede getting answers.