What if I told you that it's not only possible to survive the teenage years, but to actually thrive through them? Don't get me wrong, this stage is challenging enough for teens and parents alike; however, there are different things you can do to make the whole experience a much more positive one. Having a better understanding of what your teen is going through developmentally can bring some clarity to their behaviors, and help set you both up for success by having more realistic expectations.
A primary part of teen development and the driving force behind most rebellious looking behaviors, individuation is how teens start to separate from their family and discover who they are and what their personal beliefs might be. Even if you’ve already spent time fostering critical thinking skills, your children have still grown up absorbing your family norms--and that’s ok. Equally, this process of separation is the next natural progression that actually helps prepare your teens to be free thinking independent adults. However, it is a pretty challenging experience for parents because the first line of rebellion is generally directed towards you and your family values. Just remember, it’s not personal, it’s developmental, and like every developmental stage, you eventually grow out of it.
TEENAGE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
Has your teen ever done something so irrational and reckless
that you couldn’t help but say “What in the world were you
thinking?!” Well, truth be told they really weren’t thinking--at
least not about the consequences of their actions. And if you
stop to actually ask them about it, they’ll seem a bit confused
upon reflection and vaguely remember that it seemed like a good idea at the time. The interesting reality is that they are at a pretty ridiculous disadvantage. The developmental stage where they’re going through individuation and rebelling, having major shifts and increases in hormones, and trying out more risky behaviors, is also a time when their prefrontal cortex is still developing. In fact, it won’t finish maturing until they’re about 25. Why is the prefrontal cortex so important? Well, it has some pretty useful functions like planning, understanding future consequences, social control (stopping yourself from saying whatever pops into your mind) working memory, impulse control and mood regulation. Basically all the mature things you wish your teens would do! [read more about neuroscience and Positive Discipline here]
Obviously peer relationships become incredibly important to teens and it seems nothing is more important, or more volatile, than their friendships. Again, as part of individuation teens are trying to figure out who they are--one of the ways they gage that is by how they fit in. Honestly, belonging and significance is so desired by us as human beings that we’ve all gone through this and are probably continuing to do so on some level. If your teen recoils at the idea of family time, it’s not that family no longer matters to them, just that they’re still individuating against them for the time being.
YOU STILL MATTER...A LOT!
Even though your teen will spend half their time
trying to push you away and ignore the majority
of your advice, they still care about you and
need you. True, you couldn’t tell it by their
actions most of the time, but the reality is that
you’re still the most influential person in their
life. They still need your support, guidance, teachings, and even though they might make it difficult to do this, your unconditional love and faith.
We’ve discussed some of the challenges teens go through and present, AND there are so many great things about this stage! Teens are super creative as their minds are still open to uninhibited possibilities. Their full emotion can also make them very passionate about a topic. And, as relationships are so important to them, they are very forgiving which means even although you might do things you wish you didn’t as a parent, they will still love and forgive you. These are just a few general things--try noticing what the positive qualities are about your teens.