Advice Column, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

What is your teen telling you…without telling you?

  • Doug Berry
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting, Tween & Teen Advice

How many of us can truly say they remember just what it was like to be a teenager? Like a severe trauma that lasts years, as we get older, we start to distance ourselves from it out of necessity. It becomes something we remember fondly, yet not fully. Perhaps with good reason…

To feel misunderstood, especially by the prior generation, has to be one of the hallmarks of the years between 13 and 18 or 19. The words “you just don’t understand!” or similar are uttered and muttered both verbally and non-verbally the world over and over. These young humans have to change from being a child, to living in limbo, the space between childhood and adulthood for a long period, torn between the need for independence and the confines of being a minor.

The teen years are a time when children undergo great changes and transitions; they may want you to think you’re not needed any more, but the reality is you, as a parent are needed more than ever. Teenagers are constantly testing their boundaries, learning what it means to move forward, haltingly and erringly from childhood to adulthood. One of the best ways to maintain connection and communication with your teen is to pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues. This can be so helpful in avoiding unnecessary conflict between you.

Aside from the rare exception to the norm, a teen will strongly withhold what they’re really feeling and thinking. It can be seen as challenging to them to try to force answers from them when all we want to know is what’s going on with them. They may feel silly, or not want to admit to their parents that they aren’t as mature and independent as they would like to be. There is a degree of reluctance to let go of something that they are holding dear, something that makes them separate from you as the parent and therefore seemingly independent to a degree. Despite this reluctance to open up and share, their thoughts and feelings often still show through in their body language. Perhaps it’s time we tried to take a closer look at their (and once our own) communication, to try to see if we can help them to navigate these challenging years!

Some common body Language of Modernus Teenagerus.

Teens generally show most of the same body language as adults, but sometimes the non-verbal cues are less obvious or slightly distorted, since it is less natural and more deliberate for many of them. Let’s try to decipher just some common examples of teenage body language and what they appear to mean…

Slumped body posture: A teen that walks with slumped body posture may be feeling self-conscious, unhappy, stressed, or just a bit down. He or she might also feel pretty good, but is just lost in thought about something else. Keep an eye on whether or not this is the go-to posture or just on rare occasion when they are thinking deeply. This will help you determine if it’s necessary to intervene further.

Poor eye contact: Teens often struggle to make eye contact, especially with adults. They haven’t yet developed the self-confidence or comfort level of a full blown adult and so sometimes, they just can’t quite look you in the eye. This doesn’t have to have any implications for honesty or whether or not they’re hiding something. Think about how difficult it is to hold eye-contact with someone who seems more competent and confident than you. Now think about learning to do this for the first time and how nerve-wracking it can be!

Backgrounding: Teens may have a tough time initiating conversation with their parents, so they sort of hang around in the background. They don’t quite engage you directly, but they also don’t head off and do something else on their own.

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