Keeping Your Perspective While Parenting A Teenager
Updated: Mar 26
I get regular calls from concerned parents who are overwhelmed with their teenagers, so I decided to share some practical information about teen development to facilitate your awareness and empower you to work more effectively with your children.
Let’s start with a brief overview of this pivotal time. I believe that having a deeper understanding of normal development will help you to have a big picture point of view that in turn will assist you to keep your cool when you find yourself in a challenging situation.
It is important to realize, that during adolescence there is a significant as well as ongoing reorganization of many of the interconnections between the brain, the body and the developing mind and personality. Interestingly, at the same time that the brain’s emotional and survival centers are primed in their reactivity, the pathways for planning/organization/higher level thinking and self-control are undergoing remodeling. Similarly, the drives to connect with peers as well as to seek new and interesting experiences are heightened. This is why we often see teenagers preoccupied with belonging, engaging in potentially risky behaviors, operating off of stronger emotional reactions and struggling to make sound decisions. Now add in the typical stressors of inadequate sleep, juggling school and activities, mix in shaky friendships and it is no wonder that you get overwhelmed and cranky teens.
So, what can you do as a parent? First off, be proactive by learning all you can about this time period and think ahead about the common issues you may encounter. Focus on maintaining a stable and supportive connection with your teenager and on enhancing good will. Work on developing respectful ways of dialoging about the shifts going on in their world. Be willing to bear the brunt of the responsibility for staying calm and non-reactive in the face of difficult interactions. Take your time, reflect, cool off and then repair any hurt feelings or miscommunications. It is good to be clear on your preferences and boundaries and to be realistic and flexible in your expectations. Demonstrate trust in your teen by collaborating with them about win/win solutions for challenges in the above.
Punishment as a teacher is overrated. It is far more useful to remember that you are building self-awareness, which takes time, experiences, conversations, reflection and encouragement. Accessing supportive and knowledgeable adults for problem solving is highly beneficial for both parents and teenagers.
Originally published on The Healthy Planet, December 1, 2015.