When is texting more than just texting?

Rebecca StanisicIf you have children who have access to a phone and the ability to text, you may be venturing into a completely new area of communication with them. Have you noticed emoji replies? Or abbreviated statements? GIF-only responses or memes that you have to Google to understand? You aren’t alone.

So what should parents make of this?  

While my preteen and teen continue to offer snippets of in-person insight when asked about school or their day during our regular conversations, some days they are less forthcoming than others. However, I’ve discovered that they can become much more open and chatty over text.

I suspect this is in part because it’s an easy form of communication, but also possibly because they can share news or feelings in a comfortable way and at their own pace.

As parents, we may find this form of communication a little confusing and out of our own comfort zone. When we ask about a problem need an answer or are just looking to connect, and are met in-person with simple responses like ‘fine’ or ‘no’, it can feel defeating. Do they not want to share with us? Have we provided enough of a welcoming opportunity for them? But when a text comes in with their test results or how they are feeling (anxious, exciting, nervous), the lines of communication seem wide open.

Our expectations possibly need to change too. It took me a while to recognize how they were using text to stay in touch with us even when they were in the house. There’s no real replacement for those silly conversations you have at the dinner table, or the round table of hot topics we all can talk about and offer opinions on when we are sitting around together. I love those moments just as much as the next parent. But I’ve also come to realize that texting opens up communication in a brand new way. It offers a space for them to share without immediate reaction. Or sometimes a space just to send funny images. That kind of connection is special too!

While texting may open up conversations, it doesn’t mean it will replace them all. Sometimes there is no substitute for a hug or a shoulder to literally lean on.

Adapting to the way our kids communicate is something we are all learning to do as parents. There will be times when we will stumble, or not understand, but that’s ok. We can learn from our kids and connect with them in a way that works for everyone.  

So when is texting more than just texting? When it’s a door into new conversations and sharing between parents and teens.

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