25 Mar Understand, reconnect with & nurture your teenagers
The science behind the teenage brain
You may wonder why your teenager’s behaviour can seem irrational, impulsive or risky. This can actually be explained as the natural development process of the growing teenage brain, from childhood to adulthood.
Research has identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala. The function of the amygdala is to deal with immediate reactions including fear and aggressive behaviour. The frontal cortex, is the part of the brain which is responsible for controlling reasoning and the ability to think before we act. The stickler here is that the amygdala develops first, and then the frontal cortex later. Which means when it comes to making decisions or solving problems teenagers can be more reactive and emotional, and less thoughtful, logical and rational.
Environmental factors effecting teens
So that’s the science part behind why our teenagers can be perplexing, but what about environmental factors? Your child may have a very different life experience to what you had. They are growing up in a completely different generation, a technological age with mass media influence. They are also an individual so they have different abilities, likes and dislikes. Try to understand your teenager by not assuming, listen to them and become aware of the pressing using effecting teens today. These may include; body image, sexuality, social media, bulling, drugs and alcohol, relationships or pressure at school.
The power of listening
When your child gets to a certain age, they will know all your opinions. Now is the time for you to listen to theirs. As teenagers develop they begin to think and make decisions for themselves, this is a really important part of their growth into adulthood and the forming of positive self-esteem. No-one likes to being told what to do how to live their life, try fully listening to your teen without offering any advice. More often than not, this approach can lead to them actually asking you for advice rather than feeling it’s being forced upon them.
Trust is key to every relationship. To get your teenager to trust you, be consistent, don’t make promises you can’t keep and be available when they need you. Teenagers start to take more responsibility for themselves, it was can hard for parents to get used to this and trust the decisions they make. Create trust by listening without judging, giving opportunities for your teens to prove they are trust worthy and praising them when they are.
Teaching empathy to your children
There are many valuable lessons you can teach your teens which will serve them for the rest of their lives. Teaching your teens to be more empathetic towards other people will give them a healthier and more realistic understanding of the world around them. In an age of technology which can make us actually more disconnected and out of touch with reality, helping your kids to differentiate what’s real and what’s not, and what’s downright serious, is as important as ever.
We can do this by firstly supporting our teens to cope with negative emotions, being sympathetic and offering solution orientated advice. Secondly, encourage your teens to try to understand and appreciate the lives and the challenges other people face. It’s a positive thing for our teens to know the realities of the world we live in. Knowing that they have pretty comfortable and privileged lives and that not everyone in the world is as fortunate will make your teens humble and grateful for what they have.
Teaching our children to think about the bigger picture
Stepping from childhood to adulthood, means that teenager’s worlds suddenly become much bigger. It’s important for them to know that they are not the centre of the universe. Try to get your teenager to appreciate how the feelings and lives of other people can be very different to our own. As well as how their actions impact others.
It is easy to get frustrated with teenagers, we feel like we are doing everything to help them but they just don’t seem to appreciate it. Having a grateful outlook encourages positive thinking and thus improves your teen’s mental health. It also gets them to focus on the things they have, instead of dwelling on things they don’t. Teaching your teen to understand the difference between rights and privileges is important in their understanding that many of the things we take from granted are actually great privileges that many people in the world don’t have access to. For example, education, healthcare, entertainment, Wi-Fi and foods from around the world.
Be a role model of gratitude, by demonstrating your appreciation of your teen’s kind behaviour, or thoughtful acts as well as the small pleasures in life. Your teen will soon begin to mirror this powerful emotion.
Stepping away from materialism
Teenagers today are growing up in a society where there is great pressure to fit in and have the latest stuff. They are bombarded with advertisements, and can feel pressure from their peers who do possess the ‘must haves’. Studies have proven that there’s a direct link between materialism and low self-esteem.
As a parent you can easily be swayed to the material demands of our children and believe the more you give the better. Many parents may get a ‘feel good’ factor from treating their children. However, placing a high value on material items, devalues more important and fulfilling things like relationships and shared experiences. Limiting ‘stuff’ and increasing communication and activities you mutually enjoy can bond parents and children on a much deeper level than any luxury gift could afford.