Teens are notorious for using drastic language:
- I’m going to die
- I’m never going to….
- You always say that….
- Just shoot me…
Does that sound familiar? Kids in early adolescence are plagued by emotions that are magnified, extreme, and fatalistic. Their language follows suit. However, in a world where words are exchanged back and forth through texts and social media, it’s important to talk about perspective and the power words have. Here are five tips for talking with your teenager about communication and proper perspective.
- In today’s world of technology, bullying, and self-harm, it’s important to avoid using fatalistic words such as “I’m going to die,” “Just shoot me,” or “I’m going to kill you.” These words must all be taken seriously to help teens who truly are crying out or who may harm themselves or someone else. Talk to your tween or teen about the seriousness of using them.
- Give them different words or phrases to replace the fatalistic words. Kids who use fatalistic words often say them because they want to avoid a situation or person. Talk with your teen about their intention for using a fatalistic phrase, then give him or her other words to use. Instead of “I’m going to die if I have to be around her,” use the words “I get so frustrated when I have to be around her” or other appropriate phrases.
- Give them perspective on “Never” and “Always.” These are common words used by teens. When you hear them use “never” or “always,” simply turn the statement into a question; “Really, you never have gotten a good grade?” or “I always say no?” Instead of lecturing them on how they’re wrong, questioning them that makes them think about the absurdity of their statement. It’ll catch them off guard and make a point of how drastic their words are.
- Help them gain proper perspective about the situation of which they’re referring. A lot of absolute or fatalistic talk refers to relationships with others or self-efficacy. Young teens tend to see only what’s in the moment and they need a broader perspective. Statements such as “I have no friends” or “It’s never going to work” perpetuates discouragement that feeds a teen’s negative emotions. Help your teen see the realistic, positive truths about their situation. Encourage them to focus on the truths you’ve identified rather than a negative perspective. For example, a truth statement could be, “You don’t have a lot of friends in your lunch hour, but you have friends on your track teamand at youth group.”
- Listen to your teen. Teens often use extreme words because they really want someone to listen and validate their feelings. While a teen’s emotions are extreme, their feelings are real. Listening to your teen and helping them give proper words to feelings and situations not only models an appropriate, positive perspective, it also lets them know you hear and understand them.
Having these conversations with your teen may seem futile. They might say, “You don’t understand” and roll their eyes. But they’re listening.
What phrases do your teens use? What are other tips you can share for dramatic and fatalistic language?