The time has come. You need to have a tough talk with your teen. Whether it’s to educate them about the dangers of drugs or to confront them about their drug use, the conversation won’t be easy.
And, if you aren’t careful, you can make it even more difficult. How? With your body language.
Projecting the Right Message
Even if you’ve planned out the perfect dialogue, your delivery could be disastrous. Remember, your teen will be listening to more than just your words. In fact, the syllables you utter will probably have less impact than how you say them. During conversations, our bodies speak volumes for us (whether we want them to or not).
That's why it’s so important to practice good body language. You’ll want to demonstrate positive feelings, approachability, compassion, and good listening skills. The right body language sets a good tone for the conversation and makes the listener more receptive to what you have to say.
When you’re prepping for a big talk with your teen, focus on the following five aspects of body language:
- Expression: What message do you want to convey? Make sure your facial expression matches this message. Smiling while delivering a serious message can send mixed signals. Your teen won’t know whether or not they should take you seriously. Frowns or eye-rolls if they ask questions about drugs can discourage them from coming to you with questions in the future. Be authentic, but be aware what signals you’re sending.
- Eye Contact: This is essential to connect with your teen during your talk. For many, it’s easier to speak to the air, look out the window, or stare at their feet – especially when the words are difficult. But, this is a mistake. You’re having an important conversation, and you need to maintain that connection with your teen. Eye contact allows you to monitor their reactions and keep communication open.
- Voice: Your voice reveals your emotions, even when your words don’t. Keep your voice calm. Avoid a sarcastic bite. Speak confidently. Shouts, trembling whimpers or light-hearted tones aren’t appropriate. Make sure your voice fits the tone you want to set for the conversation.
- Breath: Quick, shallow breaths indicate stress, anger or fear. Heavy sighs indicate frustration, annoyance or boredom. Before speaking with your teen, take a few moments to get your breathing under control. Take some deep, calming breaths. As you appear calmer, this will help your teen feel more at ease, or keep a tense situation from escalating into a shouting match.
- Posture: To encourage communication, maintain an open posture. Arms and legs uncrossed. Leaning forward. Nodding frequently and adding an “mmhmm” or “yes” as they talk. If the situation calls for emphasis on your role as an authority, take a dominant stance. (You stand while they sit, for example.) If you’re discussing questions they have about drugs or are sharing information about the risks, it’s more appropriate to sit in a more relaxed stance. This will make you more approachable.
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