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  • Writer's pictureGuest Post

How to Write a Letter When Your Teen Won’t Talk to You 

There are times in teens’ lives when the last thing they want to do is talk to their parents, even though that connection is part of what they need at the moment. If you haven’t had this experience yet, it’s one of those moments when your teens are incredibly clear and direct in what they want. They even post signs on their doors: “Stay Out.” “I don’t want to talk right now.” “Leave me alone.” “No.” Writing a letter can be a way to bridge the silence gap instead of forcing a conversation that has little chance of bearing fruit. This article will go over the eight steps to write an effective letter.

Father writing a letter to their son in the kitchen

You could barge in instead of writing a letter, but why? Teenagers’ emotions can surge to heights we haven’t felt in decades and drop to equally low ones over a day, even in one dramatic hour. We want our teens to learn to manage their emotions, and quiet time (or loud music time) can be a way to do just that. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t show them that we care, and that we want to help them.  


Writing a letter and placing it at their door or any other place you know they will see it is a good choice. Handwritten letters show you took the time to put your thoughts on paper. The bonus parent part of this is that you are role modeling writing about your feelings, something your teen might find quite useful. If you are just off a bad argument or rough patch in your relationship, a letter done right is not challenging. 


If you write a letter that is a significant challenge to your child’s perspective or focuses on what they’ve done wrong, it’s not going to work. It may even make the situation worse. Another bad idea is to tell them their feelings are wrong. Luckily, a good letter is easier to write than you may think. Here are eight steps to writing a great letter to your teenager: 


Step 1: Get in the right frame of mind

Get your head and heart in the correct space. If you’re angry, you need to cool down. If you’re anxious or stressed, you need time to breathe before you start. One strategy to get in a good frame of mind is to think of the good times you have had with your child or think about when they were funny or moments when you were proud of them. Once you are thinking of them in a loving way, do the same for yourself. Think about when you’ve been at your best as a parent and the connection you have had with your teens. 


Step 2:  Define the purpose of the letter

Decide what you want the letter to do. The best letters will be about offering comfort, showing you understand their situation, or expressing how much you love them no matter what they are going through. Save the letters of advice for when they are away. Now is not the time. When I showed my son, a recipient of this type of letter, he told me to tell parents to write conversationally so the letter reads like you were talking to them and not a formal letter.


Middle aged woman writing a letter on her laptop

Step 3: See and understand

We all want to be seen. Start off by sharing what you have seen. Leave out the judgment. Starting a letter by saying, “I think you are overreacting to your girlfriend breaking up with you,” is as ineffective as it gets. It’s always good to leave the door open for things you do not know about (It seems like…) You may think the current mood is about a breakup or test score, but it could just as well be 100 other things. When in doubt, be honest about not knowing what is going on.


Step 4: Share a teenage experience

Once you have shown that you are trying to understand where they are, you can share a story from your own teenage years around a similar feeling. Be short. It’s not about you, but you can show your teenager that you aren’t totally ignorant of what it’s like to be a teen and sad, afraid, angry, or otherwise overwhelmed. 


Father and son laughing whilst looking at the laptop

Step 5:  Conclude with love and hope

End the letter with love and hope. Again, Let them know that you love them (always good) and that things will improve. Hope isn’t just about things getting better. They may feel like something is wrong with them that they don’t know how to live with. Hope can be built on a parent saying, “What you’re feeling is normal,” and “I’m here for you, no matter what.” Easy answers from parents don’t build hope; parental commitment through the struggle can. 


Step 6: Revise with objectivity

Once written, take a small break before looking at it one more time. Take out anything that seems more about what you need as a parent than what your son or daughter needs now. Remember, your letter isn’t a solution. It symbolises your love and a bridge to a deeper, face-to-face conversation in the future. 


Step 7: Placing the letter

Choose a location where your teen will find the letter naturally. If they don’t want to talk, getting them to open the door to hand-deliver the letter requires talking. This ignores their need for space. The goal is for them to discover it at their own pace, creating a non-intrusive opportunity for reflection.


Step 8: Exercise patience

Waiting is challenging but essential. This can be the hardest part. You can lose all the goodwill you hope to build by pestering your teenager with, “Did you read the letter?” Forget about the letter. It has already done its job. Trust that your long-term relationship will survive this moment, and your letter is simply one concrete example of your commitment to your child.  


As parents, it’s hard when our teenagers shut us out, especially when we see them struggling. However, working things out on their own is an essential part of our teenagers growing up and becoming confident adults. A letter can be an excellent way to bridge that gap between giving them space and letting them know you care. Remember: make sure you are in the right state of mind when you write the letter.  Decide on the purpose of the letter and stay focused on showing that you see them. Tap into your own teenage experience and end with love and hope. Go over it to review your tone before placing it where your teen will find it, and get ready to wait. Once you try it, you may find out that letter writing can be added to your parenting tool kit for good days, too. 



Author’s Bio:

Steve Anderson

Steve Anderson is married and has two sons. He is the former director of the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Minnesota, where he led national and international transformational weekends for boys.


He has over ten years of experience working with men and boys, developing the emotional awareness and skills they need to reach their full potential. He also has over 20 years of experience teaching people how to be more effective communicators.


He lived through his dad’s spectacular burnout as a teenager and works with fathers to help them avoid doing the same in their own lives. He is a certified professional coach with training in applied neuroscience.


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