Is your teen not communicating?

Date: 08/11/2023

Title: How do I help my son when he can't communicate what's bothering him?

00:00:02 Speaker 1
Does your teenager walk around like a zombie, head down, no eye contact, kind of defeated? Well,
we're going to talk about that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kenza Tussant. I'm a licensed
marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families live
happier lives. I lead two organizations s teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501 c three
organization, child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California. Every
Wednesday at noon, I jump into Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's jump
into today's help, please. My 16 year old son rarely makes eye contact or speaks loud enough
to hear him. He keeps his head down and walks rigid like he is in a fight or flight mode. When I notice
him seeming sad, I ask him to try to name or describe what he is feeling, and he always says, I don't
know how to describe it. I'm concerned if he doesn't get help, he'll live a very uncomfortable
life having low self esteem. What can a concerned mom

00:01:13 Speaker 1
do to start the process of getting him help? Well, you're on the process because you wrote to
Tips on Teens and you're asking me for help. So this is the first step. I'm imagining this kid.
I've met many kids like this over the years of working with kids and teens. Regardless if this
has been going on for a long time or a short while, it is a concern. Hopefully. Let's assume for
argument's sake that usually this kid is upbeat, happy, easy going, but he's going through
this phase right now, and maybe he's just reacting in a really negative way to something that
happened to him and hopefully he snaps out of it, gets back to his regular life. But if not, if
it's going on and on and on beyond where you think, hey, he should have snapped out of it by now,
you may want to talk about getting him some help and some therapy and some treatment. And the
reason is my concern is if someone is that down and defeated that it could lead to abusing substances,
weed, alcohol, whatever, also lead to self

00:02:24 Speaker 1
harm. Whether it's just cutting or hurting themselves could lead to suicidal ideation, I don't
know. Obviously, a lot of things can happen. If this has been happening for a long time, I would
definitely want to get him some therapy and get him some help to help him start better, identifying
what he's feeling, exploring it in a safe place. And then expressing it in a healthier way so
he can get back and engage in life, so he can walk with his head held up high. He can engage with
people. He can talk to you, he can talk to friends. He can get involved in things at school or other
activities. It's really important that people have a sense of purpose and a sense of autonomy,
something that puts them going forward a sense of independence. And the way you're describing
your son is he doesn't really have a lot of that right now. I don't know why, obviously, but that's
something I'd want to explore. Maybe nothing you've done. You may have been great parents,
but for whatever reason, he's struggling

00:03:25 Speaker 1
right now. And I think the sooner you get him help, the sooner he can get on top of this and the less
deep he gets in this funk that he's in. If he is resistant to coming to therapy, I would say don't
worry about that. If you can just get him in the car and get him to the office myself, all the other
therapists on my team, other therapists I know who work with teens, will all tell you, if you
can just get him in the office, we can take care of the rest. Vast majority of the time, kids want
to talk. They just don't realize it. And once they feel safe, they can talk. It may take a few sessions
to get there. The first few sessions may be a little rough, but eventually they ease into it.
Once the therapist has built trust and safety with that kid, hopefully this is not a dangerous
situation. Hopefully he has friends. I wouldn't say in the meantime, what you can do as a parent
is keep your listening ears open, keep your mouth shut at a maximum. Obviously, you still need
to talk to him here and

00:04:28 Speaker 1
there, but when he starts talking, if he says, I don't know, don't blame him. Don't shame him,
as we've all had experiences where we had really big emotions but didn't really know how to articulate
them and say, it's okay, I understand. I've been there. We've all been there. So put the arm around
his shoulder there. It's going to be okay. I'm here for you. I know what it feels like to feel defeated,
or you can even say, hey, it looks like you're feeling kind of defeated. Does that make sense
to you? If he says, yeah, it does? Well, we all know what that feels like. We've all had moments
in life where we felt defeated. And, yes, the mindset is, well, then pull yourself by your bootstraps
and get going. And that's great advice, but he's not in the advice column yet. He's still in the
I need emotional support column. So just be there to give him support. Wait for him to say, well,
what should I do? And then that's a trap question as I talk about often. And you may want to say
to him, hey,

00:05:21 Speaker 1
I hear you asking for advice. Do you really want advice right now, or do you just need me to listen
and understand? No, I really want advice. All right, then you give your advice without any expectation
that he'll follow it, because he probably won't, but that's okay. We often ask for advice that
we never follow. So if you give him the advice don't expect him to follow it. That's okay. Keep
the conversation going. Let him feel safe to have that conversation. And again, maybe talking
to a therapist or some other mentor who might be able to help him through this. Anyways, that's
our question for today. Thank you so much. Hope this has been helpful. If you have a question
you'd like me to answer here on Tipsonteens, email us at
My name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Teen Counseling, and I will see you guys
next Wednesday at Bye. Goodbye.

Is your teen walking around with his or her head down, kind of defeated, but not really communicating what’s wrong?

We can all probably remember being in situations where we had really big emotions but not been able to express them. Some parents in this situation might be tempted to take a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get going” kind of attitude with their kid. If your child is in this kind of situation though, he or she is probably not in the “able to receive advice column.” Rather, they need emotional support.

The truth is, the vast majority of the time, kids want to talk. 

As a parent, the best thing you can do is keep your listening ears open and keep your mouth shut. When your teen starts talking, try to make them feel safe to have the conversation, and try to keep them talking. Don’t blame, shame or try to give advice. If you can’t get your kid to talk, try to get them to therapy. Creating a safe place for teens to put a name on their feelings is what we do.

Therapy Creates A Safe Place to Explore Emotions

If your teen isn’t communicating but clearly suffering, it’s something you as a parent should be concerned about. If you don’t take some kind of action it could lead to worse things like drugs, alcohol or self harm. Exploring what he’s feeling therapy can help him identify and explore what he’s feeling and express it in a healthier way. 

Here’s this week’s Tips on Teens question:

“Help please! My 16 year old son rarely makes eye contact or speaks loud enough to hear him. He keeps his head down and walks rigid like he is in fight or flight mode. When I notice him seeming sad I ask him to try to name or describe what he is feeling and he always says i don’t know how to describe it. I’m concerned if he doesn’t get help he’ll live a very uncomfortable life having low self esteem. What can a concerned Mom do to start the process of getting him help?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.