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  • Writer's pictureJustin McLennan

Wearing our Detective's Hat

As a parent or guardian, we must keep ample space in our closets for all of our hats. From family life, to work life, to our own life, we continually wear multiple hats, sometimes all at once. Today, I’d like to discuss our round, plaid, light wool cap, with a pair of bills in the front and back. Better known as a deerstalker or “detective’s hat.” A hat that we may feel we never take off with our kids.

Why did he do that? Why did she say that? Understanding our kids is a constant unsolved mystery...especially when it comes to our teenagers. Trying to understand what a teenager is feeling, needs, and wants is one of the most challenging cases you’ll ever get assigned. We can try to get them to communicate with open-ended questions and showing them we are interested, but even gestures with the highest intent can be shut down by the infamous, “I'm fine.” When we are having trouble understanding our teens, we need to adjust our detective hats, take out our magnifying glasses, and carefully uncover the little mysteries behind their actions (or lack thereof). Fortunately, all great detectives have a secret that I’d like to share with you.

A teen may not be able to communicate to you what they are feeling or even what they are thinking, but their actions can speak louder than words. And their body language may be just the communication us detectives need to solve the mystery.

Believe it or not, 55% of communication is non-verbal. That means that what our teens don’t say is just as important, if not more important, than what they do say. So as parents, and detectives, it is so important that we are able to discover and understand our children’s body language. As a soccer coach and parent, I have found just how powerful reading a child’s body language can be. Being able to adjust sessions in the moment and see the child’s confidence and engagement in sessions increase is the greatest gift.

There is a fantastic opportunity in being able to uncover the mysteries of our children's’ unspoken language. To help you become a confident body-reader, I’d like to share some common teenager body language signs and what it means the next time you need to put on your detective’s hat.

1. Wiping the face in a downward motion: A desire to “wipe away” a problem.

2. Sucking in lips: Reluctance to express certain thoughts or emotions.

3. A tilted head with interlocked hands at the pelvis: I’m interested but nervous.

4. Wiping below the collar: Feel under pressure or in a stressful situation.

5. Open eyes with a tight smile: Nervousness.

6. Body is curled in toward the belly and arms crossed: Scared.

7. Arms crossed with hands curled into fists: Mad and a strong desire to attack.

8. Walking with a slumped body posture: Feeling self-conscious, unhappy, or stressed.

9. Just hanging around in the background: Having a tough time initiating a conversation.

10. Poor eye contact: May be feeling low self-confidence or comfort level.

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