When you look into the face of another adult, your brain helps you determine if the person you are with is happy, sad or in any other emotional state. That is because your prefrontal cortex, behind the forehead, is fully developed and uses logic to make this judgment.
Adolescents do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex and so they tend to use a deeper brain structure, the amygdala, to make their judgment about your emotional state. The amygdala is a center for emotion, not logic. This results in a less than accurate reading of you by your adolescent.
The amygdala is located deep in the brain and develops a little ahead of the prefrontal cortex. It is super sensitive to danger or threat. It runs on impulse and gut reaction. It is likely to see anger where there isn’t any. Even a slight change in tone or facial expression can alert the amygdala that this is a threatening situation.
Be Careful of Your Face and Body Language
The takeaway from this brain information is to be careful with your face and body language when communicating with your adolescent. Although you might not think you are pushing them away, they might interpret what they see as rejection. Use your words to more adequately express your heart. They can hear it when you say what you think better than figuring it out on their own.
Another suggestion is to get feedback from your adolescent throughout the conversation. Ask them how they feel about what you are saying so that you can get a glimpse into their “amygdala response” to you.
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