Decoding Your Teens Body Language: A Guide For Parents

From facial expressions to gestures, this guide helps parents decipher the hidden meanings behind their teen’s body language. Parents can gain a deeper understanding of their teen’s emotions, thoughts. This is what the experts suggest.
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Adolescence is a period of rapid growth & and development including physical, mental & and emotional growth. Rapid gain in height with emotional swings may lead to certain body language. This is the period when adolescents start connecting with the world outside their family and being part of the peer group is something that is held to be very sacred to them.

Their words, tone, and especially their body language, can convey a wealth of information. However, many parents find it very difficult to understand their body language which includes their facial expressions, hand gestures, and verbal words.

Many times, certain body language is adopted as teenagers want to communicate a few things amongst themselves without their parents or any adults being aware and if this body language is used for an extended period, it becomes a norm in the adolescent world.

Let’s delve into the world of teen body language to help you as parents bridge the communication gap. 

The Slouch

Most parents would have commented on their teenager’s slouch and told their teen to “sit up straight. A slouched posture might be a manifestation of low self-esteem, feeling defeated, or simply fatigue. However, remember that growing bodies can feel awkward, and sometimes, slouching feels more comfortable. Slouching and walking with a particular gait can also be a part of the peer group’s body language which is then followed by all the adolescents of that particular peer group

Tip: Engage your teen in activities that promote a strong posture and self-confidence. Sometimes, a simple and non-judgmental, “How was your day?” can open the lines of communication. Try to introduce sports activity in your teenager to break the slouch.

Eye Rolls: The Universal Teen Gesture

This is a sign of exasperation, disbelief, or disagreement. The eye roll can often feel dismissive to parents. However, it’s a normal part of teenage body language, signalling a developing sense of independence. Eye roll may be also associated with an open-arm gesture

Tip: Instead of reacting, ask your teen to express their feelings verbally.

Crossed Arms: Building Walls

While this might signify that your teen is cold or comfortable, frequently crossed arms can also indicate defensiveness or discomfort with the topic at hand.

Tip: Promote open-ended questions and have a dialogue where your child can freely speak without being judged, “Can you tell me more about that?” to encourage them to share.

Avoiding Eye Contact: More Than Just Shyness

Teens avoiding eye contact may feel intimidated, embarrassed, or may be hiding something. They could also simply be deep in thought. It may also indicate that they are thinking of something else and have not heard from you or they do not wish to communicate with you at that point in time

Tip: Always approach with empathy. “I’ve noticed you seem distant lately. Would you like to talk about it?” can work wonders.

Increased or Decreased Physical Touch

Some teens might become more tactile, hugging their parents more often or seeking physical comfort. This might indicate that they’re going through a stressful phase or experiencing emotional upheaval. There could be situations where your teenager will not appreciate your hug and may physically push you away. They may appear genuinely uncomfortable when you try to hug them.

Tip: If your teenager has become more tactile, welcome these gestures. They’re signs that your teen still values the security that you provide. However, if your teenager pushes you away, don’t take it in the negative. This is just a phase where they are trying to find their own independence and find it childish to be hugged by their parents.

Fidgeting: Restlessness and Anxiety

Constant fidgeting can be a sign of anxiety, restlessness, or even medical issues like ADHD. Occasional fidgeting could be normal as the adolescent is going through a growth phase including brain growth, so attention span issues may be there in some adolescents.

Tip: Discuss any consistent behavioural changes with your paediatrician. Encourage activities that help release pent-up energy like sports or even simple walks.

Exaggerated Sighs

A deep pronounced sigh typically signals exasperation, frustration, or feeling overwhelmed. It could also be a sign of fatigue and that they require some rest

Tip: Instead of reacting to the sigh, offer a listening ear: “It seems like something’s on your mind. Want to chat about it?”

Foot Tapping: Impatience or Anxiety

Consistent foot tapping can be a sign of impatience or anxiety. It might also indicate nervous energy.

Tip: Ask if there’s something specific that’s causing them stress or if they simply need a break from a current task.

Looking Down: Insecurity or Shame

Consistently looking down, especially when being spoken to, can be a sign of low self-esteem, shame, or feeling defeated.

Tip: Reinforce positive affirmations and ensure your teen knows their worth. A simple compliment can sometimes lift their spirits.

Hair Twirling: Deep in Thought or Anxious

Twirling or playing with hair can either indicate that a teen is lost in thought or feeling anxious.

Tip: Discern the context. If it’s during a casual TV show, they might be daydreaming. If it’s during a serious conversation, they might be anxious.

Biting Nails: Anxiety or Nervous Habit

Nail-biting is a common sign of nervousness or anxiety, but for some, it might simply be a long-standing habit.

Tip: If it seems to be due to anxiety, discuss stress-relieving techniques or consider seeking professional advice.

Teenagers’ body language can be a window into their world. Interpreting teen body language is as much an art as a science. While it’s essential to observe and understand these cues, open communication remains the key. Every teen is unique. Let your teenager know they can always come to you with their concerns, joys, and troubles. The teenage years can be tumultuous, but with understanding and connection, they can also be tremendously rewarding.

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