Yep. I'm in a wonderful position to tell you about the secrets that your teens keep from you as long as you promise not to divulge your source. I have worked with teens for over twenty years in my role as a psychologist, and they tell me their secrets in my office. So sit down, read on, and you too will be in the know.
First, I would like to dispel three major myths about teens:
Myth #1: They don't want to talk to their parents. Truth #1 is that they do want to talk to you, just on their own terms and when they are ready. Timing is everything in so many areas of life, right?
Myth #2: Teens don't want their parents around. Truth #2 is that they do want you around -- not in a hovering manner, but they do want you to be present.
Myth #3: Teens don't care what their parents think about them. Truth #3 is that this is simply not true. In fact, they care very deeply about what you think of them. Above all else, they do not want to disappoint you. They tell me that they can tune out your anger but not your disappointment. This makes so much sense to me. It's so much easier to attribute anger to a parent "losing it"or "freaking out." Disappointment isn't easy for any of us to tune out.
Let's pause briefly. You are probably wondering why your teens are holding on to these secrets. The answer is that it would be so very non-teenage and not cool for a teen to admit that they want, need and care about their parents presence and opinions. A major task of adolescence is to become independent of parents which involves separating sometimes in the clumsiest manner. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they could just say that they needed space instead of turning into moody and surly creatures for five or six years?
Ready for more teen secrets? Okay good!
#4 Teens often act like they are not paying attention to you or what you are saying, and appear to not even be looking at you. The truth is that teens read more negative meaning and anger into facial expressions than any other age group. With this in mind, think about the last time that you were simply daydreaming and your teen asked you why you were looking at him like that. Yep, that's what they do. They are constantly checking your face for signs of anger and often misread your expressions.
#5 How about this? Teens are not only watching your facial expressions for signs of anger, but they are also trying to interpret your other nonverbal cues including tone of voice, body movements, sighs, etc. They are trying to read you for any signs of negativity before deciding whether or not to talk to you.
Wow. No wonder the teenage years are so confusing. Just like you scan your teens, your teens are scanning you for signs of approachability. I hope that these myths and truths shed some light on what is really going on with your teens. I'll be back soon to help you deal with these issues more effectively. Until then, breathe deeply.