COLUMN: Share feelings with teens even if they don’t respond
Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Younger children are known for their brutal honesty.
Sometimes it’s sharing good things, such as expressing their love and affection to others. Other times, it can cause awkward moments as children ask about personal or sensitive matters. Young children can also be very expressive. Huge smiles and loud cries let you easily know how they are feeling.
Their honesty and expressiveness can bring joy to the adults around them. Is there anything better than the huge grin of a small child running towards you with arms open wide for a hug?
Perhaps an excited “Daddy!” or “Mommy!” lets you know that you were missed. They can be quick to say that they love you, but their joyful expressions tell you even if they don’t verbalize those feelings.
They are often excited to tell you about their day, share every detail of their life with you, and verbalize and demonstrate their love for you.
It’s not usually the same when they hit the teenage years. They don’t say “I love you” as frequently, and details of their day or life are often left unshared, even if you ask. Detailed explanations of their day are replaced with teenage grunts when you ask how everything is going. You’re stuck trying to dig for information, and there are times when it seems impossible to determine what they are thinking or feeling.
It can be tempting to pull back on expressing our feelings to them because the joyful smile you once received when you told them you loved them has been replaced with an expressionless face and an unenthusiastic “Uh huh” or another brief phrase.
However, parents and other caring adults in the lives of teenagers must not stop speaking to teens about their lives, asking how they are doing, or telling them that they love them. It is just as important now as it was when they were little.
Their rapidly changing minds and bodies may cause them to struggle to share their feelings, but they still need your love and support. They will never admit it, but their minds and hearts need to know that you’re still there, you still care, and you still love them.
They may act annoyed while you are around, and teenagers need some personal space, but you must continue talking to them about life. Talk to them, ask them questions, and dig for the information that they may be bottling up inside.
Speaking to them about the day’s events lets them know you’re there and care, even if they don’t return much in the conversation. What they do share can provide insight into what is going on in their lives and what they need from you. It may come out in clues or riddles, but you can often read between the lines of their words.
Tell them you love them even when it’s met with a grunt. Ask how they are doing even when “fine” is all that is given in return. Remain a steadfast presence in their lives even if it seems like they want to be left alone. They need you.
Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.