Have you ever felt that your teen is an alien? Speaking a different language or not speaking at all? Do you sometimes feel that they are unrecognisable as the child you once knew? These feelings are normal and are often felt by parents of teens
How can this behaviour be explained?
- Teens see communication as something that adults are good at and that they struggle with. They do not have the vocabulary that adults possess – the average 14-year-old has only 75% of the vocabulary of an average adult. They do not do ‘small talk’ or ‘conversation’ – they do not see any purpose in it and language can become very functional – conveying a need. You may feel they chat endless to peers but remember they often communicate via text or brief comment and so do not engage in conversation there either!
- We use tone of voice and body language to reinforce and add meaning to the words we use, however, 50% of teens are not able to match simple emotions to facial expressions. So understandably their communication skills are not similar to those of an adult.
- They can often feel embarrassed to express themselves. They also use filters – such as the filter of power and the filter of expectation. TH filter of power means that they often perceive all adults as having power and control over them, resulting in defensive responses and interactions. The filter of expectation means that they sometimes read more into what is said than was actually verbalised – for example, you may simply ask “how is your homework going?” which can be interpreted as “Why have you not done your homework – why are you not focusing on schoolwork and playing on the Xbox?”
- Also, they avoid difficult conversations in order to protect us as parents from things they may be embarrassed or ashamed of – working on the premise that what we do not know about we cannot worry about – and be honest did you tell your parents everything when you were a teen?
- When conversing with a teen – take note of how that looks physically as they are intimidated by face-to-face contact. They prefer side-by-side interactions – so converse better when sitting side by side on the sofa or in the car, or when out walking the dog, etc. They also need you to be at their level – so if they are sitting you need to sit too as if you stand over them, this filter of Power engages and the barriers come up.
- Try to find a shared interest – something you can chat about – a sport they love; music you can listen to together; a computer game to play together; a hobby to engage in together; or simply making a meal together – all these aid communication.
- However, we need to remember that teens are trainee adults and are in a transition stage between childhood and adulthood and so they often make mistakes including in the area of communication – but this is a phase and they will re-emerge at the end of it as chatty, conversational adults – so be patient.
If you feel that you would like to know more about the teenage brain and teenage communication, then please connect – email me and I can send you the download of Teen Top Tips and Resources. Also, consider attending a Talking Teens course as this will really help. I look forward to connecting.