This week’s blog article is written by my esteemed colleague Leigh Swanson, LAPC! I am thrilled to have her on board at Wonders Counseling Services as her expertise in parenting and working with adolescents is supporting so many families in the Atlanta area.
Parenting teens takes special skill and a lot of understanding. In my work as a therapist and parent-educator, I help adolescents understand themselves while helping parents navigate the often turbulent teen years with coping strategies and effective parenting techniques.
Understanding what is happening for adolescents developmentally and how to interact and respond effectively as a parent is key.
Hormones are playing a part in adolescent behavior but they are only half of the story.
The human brain is considered by many scientists to be the most complex organism in our Universe, so you can imagine that it takes a long time to fully mature.
Teenager’s brains have much of the gray matter that adult brains have… but have not yet developed the connections that allow it to work together. So, although they are capable of high levels of complex thinking they have not developed highly skilled problem-solving skills.
This most likely does not come as a surprise to you, the parent!
You see, the frontal lobe of the brain is still far from being fully mature and this is why teenagers have great difficulty predicting consequences and making good decisions.
As parents, it is our job to understand their difficulty and help them learn to go through a decision making process step by step. One part of their brains that has long been mature is the part that is watching you, observing how you problem-solve and handle highly emotional events.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin
Your behavior is the most powerful teaching skill you have with your child, and here are a few tips to help you be the best teacher you can be for your teen.
- Communication with teens is a whole new ball game: Your adolescent is not a young child anymore. Learn to have an open and accepting communication style –Learn to respect your teen’s perspective (even if you don’t agree) and be willing to negotiate with your teen.
- Avoid the teen drama pitfalls: Develop a healthy distance from the normal “teen drama” and don’t get hooked into it. But don’t condescend – to your teen this “drama” is real life for them.
- Pick your battles. Think carefully about what really matters and what doesn’t. Allow your teen room to make mistakes. Let your teen know that mistakes are how we learn. Focus on the important issues that involve safety and health. Let the little things slide.
- Circle the wagons. Be sure you have a support system for yourself that allows you to find some humor and delight at this time in your teen’s life. Join a parent support group. Connect with your friends who also are raising teenagers. Attend parent education workshops that focus on adolescence for extra ideas. Schedule a session for private parent support or counseling.
Though it can be challenging to see your precious little child sprout into a sometimes surly, moody, rapidly-changing adolescent, you have a golden opportunity to shift gears and step up to the plate. Be your teen’s guide and teacher through this awkward and fleeting time in your child’s life. Before you know it they will be all grown up and flying from the nest.
Leigh Swanson, LAPC counsels adolescents and provides expert knowledge and support for parents. Leigh is available for private parenting consultations and offers workshops for parents in the community. You can reach Leigh at 404-436-1028 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org