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I feel like my wife and I have been very honest about our views of inclusion and acceptance when it comes to the race, creed and sexual orientation of others. I never want my son to feel like he can’t tell us anything. And yet, he is very closed mouthed when it comes to most things. I know that he is only 12 and there’s plenty of time for him to discover himself and to open up to us when the time is right but I know that I knew myself pretty well at his age. It might be irrational of me but right now I’m afraid he’s hiding something that he think we won’t like for some reason. I just want to make sure he knows that no matter who he is on the inside, we will support and love him.
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The majority of teenage boys just don't want to talk. Honestly, if the topic of conversation does not center around something that completely interests them, or is something they interact with, they're not opening up.
And this is okay.
I have worked with middle schoolers for years. There seems to be a standard among the boys that the ones who open up and talk about sensitive topics are the ones who have to work harder to fit in. Those who tease, use with the "whatevs", and generally goof around, they are the more accepted.
And this is not okay.
Please, please create a safe time and place where you, and your son, and your wife can go outside of the home and have consistent conversations about the sensitive topics. Having these conversations, as tough as they may be at first, will open wide the doors of communicating what your views and values are, and allow your son to do the same.
There are conversation starters online, specifically geared towards getting teens to open up. Search for these and help your son to see that this talk time with him is a priority for you and your wife, because you want to not only help him understand that seeking answers and speaking freely are healthy, but also so he sees that you have a genuine interest in him an an individual person.
I think at the age of 12 that even though our kids might not be speaking so much to us with words as they had when younger, their body language can still be telling us something. Sometimes the being quiet and short head nods or looking away when asking about their day is an invitation to us as parents to pay attention. It might not be that they want to talk right then, but they might be letting you know that something is up and 'I'm not sure how to deal with it myself'. As parents, I think its really important at this age to turn our active listening ears on and problem solving voice off, which is so hard sometimes! Often kids just need a listening space to work out how they are feeling or what they want to be doing without our own opinions clouding the interaction. As others have said, it might be about commenting during a TV show or during special carved out time together that you could comment on the quietness you have noticed with your son and just letting him know that you are there when he wants to talk. I think with time and trust that you won't be panicked by any of his responses, he will come to you. Kids open up more and more when they feel better after the response they get from adults.
I completely understand where you are coming from. I have a very open parenting style and no topic is off limits. We have always had very open and honest conversations about all sorts of topics, and my kids know that they can talk to me about anything. At the same time though, I did find that in their early teens, my kids both became a lot less forthcoming when talking about their own lives and experiences.
My belief is that this is because at this age, many kids are in the beginning stages of trying to figure out who they are apart from their parents. They are also spending a lot of time comparing themselves to their peers and getting an idea of their similarities and differences. I also think that at this age, our kids become a lot more aware of the kinds of messages that are received via various forms of media, including social media, about what is socially acceptable and what is taboo. Paradoxically, at the same time, our kids are growing up in a far more open and permissive society than we did and it may simply just be a case that he does not feel that there is anything to talk about.
My workaround for this time of my kids lives was to keep the channels of communication open. I used tv programs or movies, and even the news we watched together to ask them questions about how they felt about certain things, and kept sharing the message that even though sometimes I might have a different opinion or viewpoint about something, I accept that each person is unique and may have different thoughts or beliefs to mine. If there is something specific that you feel your son may be uncomfortable talking about, then you can always find opportunities to discuss these topics when you see them spoken about elsewhere.
If you can be consistent in your willingness to listen, even when you might not agree with someone, your son will take note of this and you will continue to remain a safe space for him when he does need to talk.
My kids are a little younger, but I can understand your concern and wanting him to open up 100%. My seven-year-old is the same and I feel like we have so much to discuss, but I don't want to be pushy and want him to talk to us at his own will.
Now that my oldest is getting older, I feel like I can open up more with him. Even if it's just something small or just simply me thinking out loud, I show him that I'm comfortable opening up to him (and he should feel the same). My husband and I try to have open conversations around him, too, without necessarily engaging him right away...but we let those big ears listen, and in good time, he eventually chimes in.
I'm an open book and I talked a lot growing up, so I'm trying to respect that we don't have the same personalities. But building trust is my goal and I can only assume the conversations will flow from there.