What is wrong with my teen!: How to better understand adolescent changes and avoid becoming the ENEMY.
Hello all! Thank you for visiting my blog. This blog was a highly requested blog. It is about something we have all experienced. Something awkward, embarrassing, maybe even the most difficult thing we ever went through… our TEENAGE or adolescent years! I have received so many questions from parents wanting to know how they can deal with their teens. Their teens are driving them crazy! Nothing they do works and they cannot understand what is wrong with them! Do not fear because chances are nothing is wrong with them, and we all went through it and survived! Surprisingly science has also questioned, “What is going on in the teenage brain!” Below is some research!
The teenage brain:
• Brain scans show changes in performance such as IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test measures in teens (Ramsden et al., 2011).
• These changes are seen in both verbal and non-verbal IQ, which are related to changes in certain local brain structures (Ramsden et al., 2011).
• Brain plasticity, or the brain’s ability to change and adapt, is very common during teen years- Meaning that a teenager’s brain may actually be changing and adapting based on their experience. (Ramsden et al., 2011).
• These changes are seen in areas of the brain that are responsible for verbal performance, as well as non-verbal performance such as motor abilities.
• Adolescents’ cognitive abilities may not be fully developed during adolescence, therefore adolescence may be in a period of refinement and constant trial and error in tasks involving cognitive abilities such as; reasoning, planning, judgment, and the inhibition of behavior (Blakemore, 2007).
• Some studies even suggest that our ability to recognize other’s emotions and match these emotions to simple things like facial cues may actually decrease during puberty (Blakemore, 2007 & Powell, 2006).
NOTE: Researchers in this study that measured changes in IQ associated with verbal and non-verbal performance do not suggest or report that teenagers are becoming less smart; they are simply suggesting that the brain’s ability to change may account for improvements or decreased amount of response and performance in these areas.
What does this mean?
• It is common to either see a decline in verbal communication during teen years. For example, parents may begin to notice that they child has become less talkative with them, or that they have fewer words to communicate with them. It does not mean they have lost their ability to speak, or that you did anything wrong, but their performance in speech may have slightly decreased!
• It is also common to see teenagers become more non-verbally active. Examples of these can be; joining more sports, wanting to use their motor abilities rather than their vocal abilities such as speech. (Playing video games, being in the phone etc.)
Blakemore (2007) tells us that adolescent years are usually defined by a transitional period between childhood and adulthood that are marked by social and psychological changes. It is no surprise then that this transitional period can be as confusing for the growing teen as it is for parents! We may typically associate the start of teenage years or adolescence with the obvious changes brought on my puberty! Things begin to definitely change and we all take notice!!! It may even scare our teens and maybe even more US! Blakemore (2007) however also suggests that these years bring on other changes that may not be so easily understood or recognized. Here are some psychological changes that researchers suggest occur during this period:
• Adolescents are learning about their identity and may suffer from problems related to self-confidence.
• They are facing changes and increases in their cognitive flexibility, or their ability to think about two concepts or ideas at the same time.
• At the beginning of puberty adolescents begin to learn and distinguish between emotional responses and cues, making it a little difficult for them to understand others’ emotional needs and concerns.
• After puberty however, it may become easier for teens to learn to empathize with others emotions and opinions, including their own, and may even become more emotional in some responses (Can anyone say DRAMA QUEEN! just kidding!)
• Along with self-confidence, or self-consciousness: Adolescents begin to worry about their appearance and other’s opinions about them.
• The opinions of their peers become so important that to some teens it may seem that pleasing their peers is beneficial to their social standing.
• Some suggest that changes in the brain, and our ability to make rational and sound decisions may not be fully developed during adolescence.
• Humans typically learn through experience, and the memories formed during such; so it is not surprising that a teen with less experience in some areas of life would make more mistakes.
How can we help?
Weaver (2007) suggests that some parents treat teens or adolescents as adults, and often times even stop teaching them things they would teach them as children. These things may be behavioral, or even educational. We may often think that our children are “old enough” to understand that their behavior is bad, and we may often become frustrated when our teen does the opposite. Here are some tips and points he presents.
• The teenage brain craves interaction, stimulus, and excitement. Teens are constantly thinking about something although they may not always verbally express it.
• You must become your child’s support network. Working with them and not against them may increase teens’ retention and awareness.
• This support must not only be centered in academics, but also at home.
I know I have presented a lot of information. Some of which maybe you did not know, or maybe you still do not fully understand, and that is OK. What research is saying is that being a teen is HARD… for that reason… here is my take, this is what Elenathinks.
• Your teen kid(s) is not YOU! You cannot judge them based on how you were as a teen or punish them for your teenage mistakes!
• Becoming your teens “friend” may not be ideal… but letting them know that you are there to support and guide them may increase the likelihood that they will come to you for help.
• Instead of referring to them as a problem or talking bad about them to your close relatives, maybe try speaking to them about what their behavior makes you think or feel. Remember research tells us that sometimes they truly are unaware that they are causing a negative emotional feeling in others.
• Trust in your ability to raise them- Do not stop instilling in them the values that you taught them when they were children. Even if they are upset, they may still be listening
• DO NOT! I repeat DO NOT compare them to other teens. Do not tell them you wish they were like their brother or sister or cousin, or neighbor etc. Each person is different, and comparisons may only heighten their fear or rejection or decrease their self-esteem.
• Do not give up on them. If they do not want to talk to you today and they see you as the enemy then arm for a peaceful battle. Show them the same affection as before, but of course do not rub in their face their mistake.
• Set clear limits and boundaries. Every time they meet or follow one of your rules try to praise them. Praise them for coming home on time. Praise them for doing chores. PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE!
• Be more vulnerable; Do not be afraid to share some of your experiences as a teen like peer pressure, or maybe some of the wrong decisions you made. Teens are more likely to empathize with you if they feel that their struggles are not rare and that you will understand.
• Be patient!! We may not remember what it was like to be a teen… But I think we can all agree that we now thank our parents for the “nagging” the lack of excessive freedom, and their “unnecessary rules.”
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog and I hope that you found some of this information useful. I know you guys are doing a very wonderful job raising your kids. Remember, you are not the first person to go through something… but you may be the first brave one to speak about it.
Blakemore, S. (2007). Brain development during adolescence. Education Review, 20(1), 82-90.
Marnell Weaver, S. (2007). Cultivating Connections with Parents. Clearing House, 81(1), 5-7
Powell, K. (2006). Neurodevelopment: How does the teenage brain work?. Nature, 442(7105), 865-867. doi:10.1038/442865a
Ramsden, S., Richardson, F. M., Josse, G., Thomas, M. C., Ellis, C., Shakeshaft, C., & … Price, C. J. (2011). Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain. Nature, 479(7371), 113-116. doi:10.1038/nature10514