Children love to disguise the world or, as the adults say, to lie. It’s a way of progressively differentiating dream from reality and appropriating the latter. It also happens to teenagers to lie, but for very different reasons. They have acquired the difference between dream and reality, as well as a certain moral sense. They pretty much know what is right and wrong for themselves and for others. Yet they may lie, especially to their parents and to those who represent authority or the adult world, such as their teachers or sports coaches.
Why do some continue to lie when they are teenagers or do they start lying as teenagers when they did not as children? Sometimes to differentiate themselves from their parents, to experience empowerment. “I think for myself and I no longer report to my parents, even if it means lying so as not to have to justify myself. » To change reality, for the adolescent, is to experience the fact that he can act alone on this reality.
Lying even when it doesn’t seem necessary
I remember this 14-year-old teenager, Isalide, who had permission to go to the cinema but who decided with her friend to go and have a coffee instead, very close to the cinema. On the way back, her mother asks her what movie she saw. She gives the name of a movie that hasn’t been released yet but that she heard about on the radio. Her mother knows that this film is not in theaters yet and does not understand why her daughter is lying to her like this. She worries and the situation escalates.
Isalide didn’t need to lie, so why did she? She was allowed to go out, and whether she went to the cinema or to the café was no problem for her mother. But Isalide wanted to distance herself from the latter. We believe her in the cinema, she is not there. This hidden moment, as stolen, belongs only to her and gives her the feeling of great freedom.
To save the parents
In other situations, adolescents lie to protect parents, not to disappoint them and not to expose them to their own frailties. I remember Blanche arriving one day at the reception of the Maison de Solenn, the home for teenagers that I run, in Paris. She tells us about her thoughts of suicide. She is desperate and sees no other way out than to disappear. However, she is concerned that her parents must not know that she has come to consult us. They would be disappointed, she said.
She tells us what she is going to tell her parents, a plausible lie: “I stayed in college chatting with my friends”. Better to lie than to disappoint or weaken her mother, whom she considers more fragile than herself. ” You understand, she concludesI can come to see you, not her…”
Should we confront our teenagers with their lies? Most of the time, it’s not worth it. It is better to leave them the illusion and the pleasure of experiencing this total freedom. If it’s more serious things, lies related to risk taking, drug use, it’s different. In this case, it is necessary to say that one knows and to speak about it. Ditto when teenagers, in distress, seek to preserve their parents. Thus, we must take seriously the lies of our teenagers, who have so much to build.