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What parents need to know about teenagers to better understand them
What parents need to know about teenagers to better understand them

Family Relationship Specialist Sue Schellenbarger explains the challenges teenagers face and how parents can help.

What parents need to know about teenagers to better understand them
What parents need to know about teenagers to better understand them

Adolescence is the most hectic period of life. During this time, children need mentors, good role models, support and, most importantly, understanding more than ever.

Teenagers can be confusing to parents. Responsible boys and girls suddenly become frivolous or exhibit extreme mood swings. Reasonable children in the past get into cars with inexperienced drivers or take risks in some other way.

These changes can be explained by new methods of studying the brain. Instead of comparing observations over the years, scientists began tracking adolescent development over the years.

New, long-term research is changing the understanding of the role of parents in the life of adolescents.

If earlier adolescence was perceived rather as an independent stage, now it is increasingly viewed as a time of high emotional dependence of children on their parents.

The latest data allow us to distinguish four phases of the development of the intellectual, social and emotional components of the adolescent's personality. Each phase corresponds to a certain age.

11-12 years old

What's happening

At the height of puberty, a child's basic skills regress. At this time, spatial learning and some types of thinking slow down. The brain regions responsible for prospective memory (remembering what needs to be done in the future) are not yet fully formed. Therefore, the child may forget to complete the assignment and, for example, not give the note to the teacher before the start of the class.

How to proceed

Help your child develop organizational skills. You can add landmarks to your daily routine: leave your gym backpack near the door or show your child how to set up notifications on your smartphone. You can use auxiliary tools like the task manager.

Teach your child to make the right decisions, take into account all the pros and cons, consider different points of view. Children who by the age of 10-11 learn how to make difficult decisions are less likely to worry, become discouraged, engage in fights, and also have fewer problems with friends at the age of 12-13. This information is given by the authors of the study Joshua A. Weller, Maxwell Moholy, Elaine Bossard, Irwin P. Levin. … published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

By staying forgiving and sympathetic, parents can positively influence the formation of a child's brain.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne (Australia) compared Sarah Whittle, Julian G. Simmons, Meg Dennison, Nandita Vijayakumar, Orli Schwartz, Marie B. H. Yap, Lisa Sheeber, Nicholas B. Allen. … changes in the development of children caused by two different approaches to parenting. During family conflicts, one part of the observed mothers behaved patiently and benevolently, while the other showed irritation and a tendency to argue.

As a result, children of loyal mothers by the age of 16 had acquired increased resilience to anxious and depressive moods, along with a high capacity for self-control.

13-14 years old

What's happening

An extremely emotional stage comes, parents must be ready for this. Teens become sensitive and reactive to peer opinions. Moreover, the ability to determine what others really think is formed much later. Thus, in adolescence, a difficult phase begins, filled with reasons for disorders.

Resistance to nervous tension decreases, which leads to more tears and emotional breakdowns.

The level of stress that is caused by relationships with other people reaches a peak.

Among adolescents with stress-related mental disorders, 50% receive Nikhil Swaminathan. … typical diagnosis up to 15 years.

Exclusion from social groups and other social factors hit the psyche hardest at the age of 11-15. At an older age, the effect weakens.

The regions of the brain most susceptible to nervous shocks are still forming. Therefore, the strategies for dealing with stress developed at the current stage, according to the latest data from Aaron S. Heller, B. J. Casey. …, can gain a foothold as a defense mechanism for the rest of their lives.

How to proceed

Psychologists recommend teaching adolescents such self-soothing techniques as meditation, advising them appropriate exercise and music.

Help children interact with peers by teaching them how to read other people's emotions and body language. Encourage you to choose friends not by popularity, but by interests. Advise you to avoid ill-wishers. Explain how to improve relationships after quarrels with the help of apologies, correct mistakes, and seek compromises.

Remember, family support is a great protection against stress.

As shown by a recent study by Golan Shahar, Christopher C. Henrich. …, friendly attitude of parents, sympathy and help in solving problems help children to recover from severe nervous shocks.

15-16 years old

What's happening

According to Barbara R. Braams, Anna C. K. van Duijvenvoorde, Jiska S. Peper, Eveline A. Crone. … scientists from the University of Leiden (Netherlands), the inclination to take risks reaches a limit in these years. The brain's "reward system" is heightened by increasing its response to dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. As a result, the thirst for thrills grows.

The feeling of fear is temporarily dulled. Scientists believe that in this way nature forces adolescents to leave their old homes and create their own. At this age, a person does not adequately assess the risk, even if he is warned of an increased danger.

Making friends and maintaining good relationships with them is especially important at this stage.

Teens with loyal friends are less likely to risk stealing, having unprotected sex, or driving with inept drivers. Those who often quarrel with the environment are more prone to this behavior. This pattern is confirmed by a study by Eva H. Telzer, Andrew J. Fuligni, Matthew D. Lieberman, Michelle E. Miernicki, Adriana Galván. … Dr. Eva Telzer from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA).

How to proceed

Forgiving, helpful parents still have time to influence the situation. This is evidenced by a study by Yang Qua, Andrew J. Fulignib, Adriana Galvanb, Eva H. Telzer. …, published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. In adolescents who were on good terms with their families, the brain regions responsible for risk appetite remained less active by the age of 15. The same situation persisted 18 months later.

To build a close relationship with your child, show respect for him, participate in problem solving, and avoid yelling and arguing.

17-18 years old

What's happening

Brain flexibility is best at this stage. IQ is growing rapidly. Moreover, according to a joint study by Angela M. Brant, Yuko Munakata, Dorret I. Boomsma, John C. DeFries, Claire MA Haworth, Matthew C. Keller, Nicholas G. Martin, Matthew McGue, Stephen A. Petrill, Robert Plomin, Sally J Wadsworth, Margaret J. Wright, John K. Hewitt. … Pennsylvania State University and the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA), the most developed children by this time often break even further ahead in intellectual development.

The areas of the prefrontal cortex responsible for judgment and decision making are usually mature enough at this age to control emotions and risk appetite.

At the same time, according to Sophie J. Taylor, Lynne A. Barker, Lisa Heavey, Sue McHale. … University of Sheffield Hallam (England), the development of such executive functions as problem solving and strategic planning lasts up to 20 years.

According to researchers from University College London (England), social skills and the corresponding areas of the brain at this stage are also not yet fully formed.

As a result, adolescents begin to better understand how others are feeling and when they are empathic. But the motives and views of people in different life situations (such as a sharp change in the topic of conversation) are still not entirely clear.

How to proceed

Let your child know that you are always ready to help him understand a difficult situation or an ambiguous person.