Have you heard these words before, probably from your teenager? Facial expressions have disappeared these days, due in most part to the lack of face-to-face social interaction across all generations. As a result, we do not know if our teenagers are happy.
Before social media arrived, we communicated for the most part, face-to-face. Sure, we had telephones as well to talk with each other, but the majority of our conversations were held in person. While chatting, we watched each others facial expressions and body language and unconsciously mirrored each other throughout the encounter.
These days we don't interact with each other as much as we once did therefore the younger generations are losing the skills that the older generations grew up with, how to interact using facial expressions and body language.
Younger generations do become animated when they are with their friends, not so much when they interact with others outside of their close circle of friends or with older generations.
The smile has now gone from the faces of our children!
Us 'older people' learned the art of smiling and the many benefits that a smile brings to ourselves and to others. This is not the case for the younger ones, (I'm sounding ancient now aren't I?). They do not display expressions of happiness as much as we do. They might be happy, they just don't show it outwardly.
Not only is it hard to tell if our teenage children are happy, they are missing out on the personal benefits a smile brings which may add to their feelings of despondency. When we genuinely smile, we engage unique muscles in the face that tell our brain that we are happy, regardless of whether we are or not.
A genuine smile works in reverse, smile with a broad smile and your brain will 'think' that you are happy.
And as parents, we see our child not smiling and ask with all sincerity "Is everything okay?" "Yes" comes back the retort. "But you're not smiling" we say. "I don't have to smile to be happy" they immediately come back with. And that's the dilemma we are faced with. Our teenage children do have to smile to not only tell us that they are happy but to also get the internal benefits a smile brings.
In my work, I have met young people who actually believe that they are smiling despite the fact that they aren't. And if they work in the customer service industry, not smiling has a negative impact on those they assist.
Try to get angry with someone who is smiling at you as you walk up to a service counter, it's damn hard.
Encourage your teenagers to smile if you can, but don't pester them about it, you will only drive them away from smiling altogether. They won't smile just to bug you. And most importantly, talk with them as much as they will allow you to.
Lastly, don't judge them, try to fix them, or attempt to change them too much. We live under a different set of rules these days, our values are not their values because our values may no longer be relevant. Just talk about 'stuff'.