4 Things You Didn’t Know about Your Teenager
Slamming doors, heartfelt moments, lashing out, bear hugs – mood swings! Welcome to typical teenage behavior. Before you throw your hands up in defeat, take heart; these outbursts are often attributed to normal brain changes that occur in the development and rewiring of the teenage brain.
The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that teenagers go through the same rewiring as they did when they were toddlers. This time around, they’re just bigger and use even more colorful language. They may not be able to communicate their needs in an effective way, so here’s a few things your teen wants you to know:
There’s Not Something Wrong with Me!
We get it; you’re genuinely concerned about why your teenager is failing calculus or missing curfews. But in the face of a heated confrontation, we blurt out, “What’s wrong with you?”
Teens will often see this as a pessimistic comment and it can be quite hurtful to them. While it may seem like there must be something wrong with them to warrant such unfavorable behavior, there probably isn’t anything fundamentally defective about your teen. The part of your teenager’s brain that is responsible for reasoning, planning, and impulses are the last to be rewired for adulthood.
While this process is happening, decision-making takes the amygdala route to the brain which reacts instantaneously and emotionally to any perceived threat. This doesn’t mean you give your teen a freebie card to do whatever they want, but it should help you gain a better understanding of why they are failing calculus and missing curfews. You can problem solve together instead of resorting to heated confrontations that benefit neither one of you.
Social Media isn’t Evil
It’s hard to keep up with the apps and social media outlets our teens are using, but we should be prudent in our efforts to try. Social media is the way teens–and adults for that matter– connect with each other.
At this stage in their life, teens are moving from the family unit to embracing their own groups of friends. It’s a natural progression in preparing for life outside the home. Even if it doesn’t require actual human interaction, they can virtually share their moment by moment trials and triumphs of the day.
Cyberbullying, sexting, and sharing sexy or nude photos is the dark side we want to protect our teens from. It’s our job to help them navigate the potentially dangerous dark waters. Teens need us to talk to them about the risks, and we need to inform them about the real, life-altering consequences of inappropriate behavior… but they don’t want us to assume they’ll fall prey to peer pressure or need a life preserver.
I Still Need You
Uncomplicated is a word rarely used to define a teenager. Their highs are extreme and their lows are beyond despair, they’re like a pendulum, changing quickly. Their reactions of fight or flee leave us feeling out in the cold and disconnected.
Their behavior may seem crazy sometimes but they don’t do it because they want to disconnect from us. Survey after survey tells us teens care about how we see and think of them. There are so many reasons why teens do crazy things, but wanting to disconnect from their parents isn’t one of them.
Stay connected by keeping the lines of communication open. When you’re driving in the car or eating at home, ask open questions to start a conversation. You may not agree with their take on something, but it’s important to validate their feelings; it shows you’re interested in what is happening in their life. Try doing things your teen enjoys, even if you don’t like it. And when they hole up in their room, respect their privacy.
I Need to Know About Sex
While teens have a 24/7 access to a plethora of avenues to explore sex, it’s not always factual or cover the areas of love, intimacy, mutual consent, birth control, and STD’s. You both may feel embarrassed and cringe, but your teenager will take it all in. You’re still their go-to source for trusted information.
A sit down lecture won’t be as well received. Again, start an open dialogue that puts your teenager in the driver’s seat. Empower them with good decision-making skills so they’re prepared before an opportunity presents itself.
How do you get your teen to open up more to you? What are some ways you like to bond and catch up on life? Share your stories with us!