mom daughter conversation

The Second Conversation

How “View of Self” taints communication between teens and parents

Ever notice how hard it is to “stay present” during a conversation with your teenagers?

Parents and teens often try to juggle too many thoughts simultaneously. We can become “flooded” with things we want to convey.

It helps to take a beat before responding. We can learn to identify “the second conversation” running in our heads by slowing down.

Our “View of Self” creates this Second Conversation.

We all hold beliefs about who we are from messages we receive throughout life, shaping how we see ourselves. This is our view of self.

We may or may not be aware that it’s happening, but a subconscious inquiry is always running in our minds.

There are at least two big questions that we run subconsciously anytime we’re speaking to someone else:

  • “Who am I?”
  • “What do others think and feel about me?”

Internal self-questioning can pose a significant barrier to effective communication. We often “hear” things that aren’t actually said. This can lead to assumptions, misunderstandings, and disconnections between parents and teens.

It starts with the silent inquiry, “Who am I?”

I’ll share the second conversation that originates from my family and still comes up often in my communication with others. If I am communicating with my husband, and I historically have held the belief that I am always portrayed as “the bad guy,” I filter what the other person is saying through the lens of me being the one at fault. When listening, I am on the hunt for messaging that leads to this belief.

My own beliefs taint the conversation. My thoughts lead to me hearing things that aren’t said. My behavior reflects this belief of self.

Our mind silently scans, “What do others think and feel about me?”

We carry assumptions about how the other person who is communicating with us views us. This is especially the case when it’s someone we think we know well – like our parents or kids. The unspoken assumptions about how we feel we’re likely to be perceived also shade what we say and what we hear.

Most of the time, these assumptions go unverified, confusing the message received. We can take one comment or look, create our own meaning, then wrap our thoughts and feelings around our hypothesis and run with it. It’s not always a conscious process, either.

Conversation + Assumptions = What We Hear

The frequency of these other conversations happening in our heads is high. It’s a mixture of discussion plus assumptions. The same is valid for teens.

I often feel like an interpreter in my sessions with the parents and teens. I’ll ask, “What did you hear your mom or dad say?”

The response becomes heard as a mixture of what the parent has said and the teen’s beliefs about themselves. They make assumptions based on how they perceive their parent views them.

Teens hold beliefs of themselves just like we all do. They focus on creating their view of self during their teenage years, and parents are a huge part of that process. These conversations, what they perceive their parents think and feel about them, and their view of self can be intertwined.

Teens wonder how their parents think and feel about them constantly. Parents who regularly share their positive perceptions of their teen with the teen can clear up some of these second conversations.

Parents essentially create teens’ own self-talk. Being clear about the positive ways you see and feel about them is crucial.

It’s not just about a teen knowing you love them; it is about your teen knowing you like them. I hear from teens, “I know my parents love me. They do a lot for me.” But I often hear teens saying, “I am not sure they like me.”

How painful for anyone to feel a parent does not like them; parents know them best! We need to make it explicit to clear up any misconceptions and build a healthy view of self.

Build A Healthy View of Self in Your Teen

  • Please share with your teen the qualities you see and value in them.
  • Tell them when they are exhibiting these qualities.
  • Be specific with where you see these qualities play out.
  • Don’t forget to tell your teen you love them and like them, too!