Nonverbal Communication of Teenagers

By Erica Loop
Talking on the phone is verbal communication, but teens also engage in many nonverbal forms of communication.
Talking on the phone is verbal communication, but teens also engage in many nonverbal forms of communication.

Although the stereotypical view of the average American teenager is that she is glued to the phone, not all adolescent communications are verbal. Your teen may communicate with you or her peers, nonverbally. While nonverbal communication may seem more subtle than saying what she means, understanding how your teen communicates is critical to understanding what she is thinking and feeling.

Use and Cues

If you think the diatribe your teen spouts while debating the merits of staying out late is the only way she communicates with you, you aren't looking at her nonverbal language. Nonverbal communication includes actions, facial expressions, gestures, body postures and eye contact. Just because your teen isn't talking to you doesn't mean that she isn't providing cues that she is angry, sad or happy via nonverbal communication. Looking for these cues and teaching her how to look for them in other people can make the difference between effective communication and running into roadblocks.


Help your teen learn it isn't what he says that makes an impression, but what he does. Your teen's actions are a nonverbal way for him to communicate his emotions and thoughts to others. Behavioral changes, such as drastic mood swings, may provide tell-tale signs that something is wrong. Looking for these behaviors is helpful when your teen refuses to pipe up about what is going on in her life. If your even-tempered teen starts crying or storms off in a huff when you ask about her day at school, she is telling you nonverbally that she is stressed about something in her life.

Body Language

Learning how to communicate nonverbally by reading other people's body language is a key part of your teen's developing emotional literacy, according to KidsHealth. Not only should your teen learn that other people give off nonverbal signals by how they hold themselves, she should know that she is doing the same thing. If your teen comes home with her head bent down, tell her that you can read her emotional state as sad or depressed.

Facial Expressions

Like body language, facial expressions are a readable way for your teen to communicate what he is feeling or thinking. While your teen may have the ability to recognize anger, frustration sadness or happiness on someone else' face, he may not realize how easy it is for others to read these emotions on his face. For example, your teen walks in to a job interview and has a blank stare or bored expression on his face while he is meeting with his prospective boss. It is unlikely that he will be on the top of the list to get the job. Help your teen become more aware of his nonverbal communications by asking him to look in the mirror when he makes a bored, mad or sad face. This can help him avoid seeming unpleasant to others.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.