The (not so) terrible teens

Originally published on Wall Street Journal, the article, What teens need most from their parents, features a breakdown of the neurological changes occurring over the teen years and what that means for parents. Here is what Family Coach, Jo Batts, has to say about it.

“Once seen as a time for parents to step back, adolescence is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to stay tuned in and emotionally connected”.

One moment you are drying their tears after a scooter crash and the next you are consoling them over a broken heart. Just when you thought you were getting the hang of this parenting thing the ground shifts again and you find yourself a parent of teenagers. It’s time to buckle up.

Let’s face it, there is plenty of bad press about the ‘terrible teens’ so it would be understandable completely to feel a little underwhelmed by the prospect of this new era of parenting. Since we were teens ourselves the world has marched on at a staggering pace, so how do we best position ourselves to support our kids as they navigate these years in a way that serves them and their futures well?

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When it comes to parenting teens, the last decade has turned up some outstanding insights into how to walk with our teens through ‘those’ years. The good news is that this new research is not rocket science which means we can practically apply the learnings into our day to day family life, it’s not difficult and it makes excellent sense. Let me explain.

“Family support is a stress buffer. Teens whose families provide companionship, problem-solving and emotional support are less likely to become depressed after exposure to severe stress.”

Research into the brain development of teenagers tells us that during the ages of 11-18 (and right into their 20’s) our teens are working hard out to lay down the framework for their adult brain, for life. This is a massive neurological undertaking. The net result of this vast developmental task is that during these years our teens have extremely limited access to their prefrontal cortex, which is their dashboard for reasoning, judgement and emotional regulation. The translation here for us as parents is that, despite how it might feel, during the teenage years our (big) kids need us more than ever to stay tuned, connected and interested in them as they navigate a volatile decade.

This Wall Street Journal article is packed with practical parenting ideas for each stage of the ride. So buckle up and enjoy!

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.