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How To Become a Human Lie Detector as a Parent

You want to believe your teen’s telling the truth. You want to be able to trust them. You hope they never lie to you. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

So, how can you tell if they’re lying to you? When teens lie, typically exhibit certain “tells” that give them away. When it comes to substance abuse, it’s especially important for parents to recognize the signs of deceit. Keep an eye out for the following cues and clues:

Expression Mismatch

If your teen verbally expresses an emotion, but their face expresses a different emotion, they’re likely lying. Or if they say they feel something, then follow up with expressions or gestures to display that emotion, that delay can indicate they’re lying. In either scenario, they’re trying to force the emotion.

Flash of Fear

In the split second after hearing something, your teen’s expression will reflect how they truly feel. This involuntary response will be extremely brief, but it’s very difficult to fake. If you ask them about drug use or where they were last night, a flash of fear quickly followed by surprise or anger to mask this fear reveals much.

Body Language

When teens lie, they tend to demonstrate more mechanical or stiff movements. They may also place a hand on their throat or mouth. It’s also common to turn their bodies away from the person they’re trying to deceive.

Rehearsed Speeches

Several verbal cues indicate a red flag. If a response sounds rehearsed, despite the topic being casual, they’re likely lying. If they continue to throw in additional details to fill in silences, they’re probably lying. Another indication of deceit is to respond to an accusation or specific question with a general belief instead of an answer. For example, if you ask them if they use heroin, and they respond “that stuff’s dangerous,” they’ve avoided answering the question and instead offered a generalized statement.

Obvious Relief

When a teen‘s lying about something, they will show relief when the subject is changed. If you ask about drug use, then move on to another topic, watch their reaction. Great relief or a huge change in behavior indicates they’re tense for some reason. Most likely, they’re hiding something.

Any one of these indicators is no guarantee that your teen’s lying to you. However, if you’re suspicious about their behavior or have other reasons to be concerned, it can be helpful to watch for these tell-tale signs.