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Tween Communication
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An_251886 posted:
I have a 12 year old boy who is terrible in his communication with adults. If an adult asks him a question he literally turns away from the asker for a brief second. He then turns back, starts shifting his weight and moving around, may glance at their face but pretty quickly then avoids any eye contact... When he speaks, it's a mumble with avoiding gaze. He seems to want to appear "cool," but instead comes off as being very rude or awkward at least. We've talked with our son about this, we've role played numerous times. He has no communication issues with parents, siblings or peers. He is "popular" at school. One additional odd thing to note however is that if he's interested in a topic, such as sports, he can talk on and on with a lively animated speech-- but it's not a conversation-- it's a speech. I know some of this may be normal with regards to "tween" behavior but my son's poor eye contact and mumbling seems like a real problem. Should we be concerned about other issues? Do they grow out of this? How can we help him?
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An_250567 responded:
This seeems developmental rather than tween related. Children become socially competent and able to interact in unfamiliar settings in their own time. I wouldn't be especially concerned. It really sounds like a confidence/comfort zone issue.

Have you asked directly if he is trying to play it "cool" or are you assuming that and then reading his body language as rude or awkward? If this were my child, I would relay how he comes off to me, ask if that is his intent, go from there. Since he seems at ease with family and friends, I might think this is a bit of stage fright or performance anxiety in impromptu situations, which should dissipate as he has more opportunities to have to wing it on demand.

As you noted, he is quite comfortable talking at an audience on something he knows. Its different when he might have to give an opinion on a topic randomly thrown at him, which can be judged. Top that with the give and take of conversation with someone he may not know well (an adult friend of yours), or a teacher/authority (who may judge/grade) and for now it is a recipe for slight disaster.

I also think practice helps a lot. Just as you already role play, maybe try to focus on situations that may come up and be more specific in your practice. I think front loading can go a long way. Kind of help him prepare for a situation by discussing who will be there, what might come up in conversation. You know, a neighborhood picnic or a family reunion might have people he kind of knows, but who may want to catch up with him. He'll be asked over (and over) how old he is, what grade, what does he like to do, maybe summer plans, etc.

Finally, I think being in activities with adult leaders where your son has opportunities to interact with peers and adults will benefit him. Scouts, sports, church groups, volunteer opportunities, will help him build confidence.

Hope some of this is helpful. Mostly I think he is probably right on target and is lucky that you are concerned and taking measures to continue fostering personal growth. Good luck.


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