It’s hard these days to be a parent of a teen. News headlines reveal more and more of the dark underbelly of the teen years. Parents often feel frustrated, angry or helpless in when it comes to their teen daughters. But life with a teen doesn’t have to be so hard. In fact, the teen years can be a time of joy, celebrating the journey of your child into the adult years. Here’s how to make the teen years less turbulent.
Understand that the teen brain is quite different from an adult’s brain. Teen’s don’t have a fully grown prefrontal region. (It won’t be fully formed until the late twenties.) That means teens don’t have all the neural real estate needed to make good decisions about their actions, or to plan for the future. Teens live more in the moment and make many decisions from their limbic system. The limbic system is responsible for defending , feeding and sexual impulses. You can see why that may not be the best source for decision making.
Bring humor and play into your relationship. Just because your teen looks like a miniature adult, that does not mean they are. Teens still need a healthy dose of play, and humor in their lives. Most parents make the mistake of ignoring their teens need to play. Instead, academic performance and behavioral issues take center stage. Old fashioned imaginative play still works magic to bring parents and teen closer. Don’t know how to begin playing again? Start with an old-fashioned treasure hunt. If you don’t know how to hold a treasure hunt, email me. I’ll send the instructions right away. It’s easy, cheap and teens love them.
Learn the 4L’s of parenting. Look, Listen, Learn and Love. Your teen’s brain is hardwired to ask what neuroscientists call “The big brain question.” Every day, your teen asks, in one way or another, “Are you there for me?” The way to always answer “Yes!” is to apply the 4L’s.
Look: observe your teen’s behavior. Listen: hear what her actions and words are saying. Learn: what does her actions or words tell you that she needs emotionally? Love: take care of her needs as quickly and as possible and positively. Relationships built on the 4L’s are generally respectful, honest and less drama filled.
Learn to be a Transformational Listener. Listening is an art. Most people don’t do it very well. We interrupt, give unasked for advice, make others wrong, or impose our truth on them, just for starters. True listening that helps others transform their lives, and helps us transforms ourselves as well, begins with putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes and understanding what they are feeling. Listening means we empty ourselves of our own agenda and tightly held ideas about “truth” and embrace others truth. Listening means we respect the humanity of whoever is talking, and we encourage them to speak what needs to be spoken. When your teen trusts you enough to tell you who they really are, you are well on your way to an amazing life long relationship built on honesty and respect.
If the turbulent teen years have you in a tizzy, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll do my best to practice transformational listening so that your brain (and heart) understands that someone is here for you.