2012-07-19 / Lifestyles

The tight-lipped teen

Lois A. Corcoran

Our favorite comic strip would have to be “Zits” (by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman), about a middle aged couple with a teen boy. Jeremy speaks little to his parents, but his “thought balloons” burst with wry commentary. You’d swear his creators took up residence here.

Once upon a time, my son Kelly chattered from the moment he sprang out of bed. I heard nitty gritty details of dreams he had the night before, and intricate plans to build, say, a Lego pinball machine.

But when he hit adolescence, his dialogue tapered off. And now I’m lucky if he coughs up a complete sentence over the course of a week.

To say he’s tightlipped is an understatement. There are days this old house sounds like a tomb. Like Jeremy’s mom, I’m tempted to use a crowbar to pry open his cranium and see what’s inside.

Oh sure, I could ASK him, but like many teens, he views parental questions as verbal trespass. Besides, it takes a psychologist to figure out how to word them.

I learned to never ask “How was your day?” While this is a loaded question for those who live to chat, it earns little more than “good” from my Number One Son.

There are other rules, too. Therapist

Randi Michaels warns parents not to ask questions that begin with “when” or “why”. No matter how innocent, they sound suspiciously like the third degree.

Instead, we should strive for open-ended questions -- those that earn more than a “yup,” “nope,” grunt, or other one-syllable reply. But I have yet to think up a query like that.

Ms. Michaels also suggests observing body language. I’m not sure what that refers to, but my son does not engage in hand gestures, thanks.

In fact, he lives by the proverb, “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.” When he does open his mouth, it’s usually to voice some random, funny comment.

On rare occasions, I hit the discussion jackpot if I choose the right topic, like computer game design. That, combined with the moon aligning with Saturn, has been known to earn a full minute of discourse.

Otherwise, my best chance to hear something meaningful is to wait until he turns in for the night. Then tiptoe in with an earhorn when he mutters in his sleep.

Or learn how to read his thought balloons.

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