Question and Answer

There are times when I just don't want to talk at all. My husband understands, but my kids get upset. Can't I just be quiet if I want to?

Silence is itself a powerful form of communication. It's easy to think of silence as neutral. But the absence of a positive message can sometimes be as damaging as the presence of a negative one. Teens will always assign meaning to silence. Coupled with a teen's own insecurities, it can suggest: "She's mad at me," "What did I do wrong?" or "She doesn't really care about me at all." If you must be silent, try to offer at least a few words of explanation if only to put your children's minds at ease.

It's possible that your "silence" may be more appropriately labeled "quietness," a trait associated with a more introverted personality type. It may require that you force yourself to speak up more often. This may sound like a matter of semantics, but there's a difference between natural quietness and intentionally clamming up in order to be manipulative.

Some parents use silence to "send a message" to family members. They punish with silence and withdraw affection in order to stir specific responses in others. It is very likely teens won't get the intended message, and even more likely that the adolescent's response will compound the problem. Be honest with yourself about your motives. Don't hide behind silence. Be direct with your feelings. If you are angry and awaiting an apology, say so. Avoiding such a confrontation only puts off the inevitable, and can actually make it worse.

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