Parenting

Understanding Teenagers

All of us experienced dramatic changes in our bodies and minds during adolescence. More so, if you have a teenager or a child that is entering a teenage and seems to you like they are “acting up,” remember how growing up changed you too. It is important to remember that there are many changes that people undergo during their teenage years.

Understanding the teenage brain:

Adolescents tend to be impulsive, rebellious, and make responses instinctively rather than having a thought-out approach as adults typically do while making decisions. Scientists believe that this could be because of how the brain changes as the body changes, as teenagers grow towards becoming adults.

Scientists believe that some brain regions are why teenagers are unnecessarily instinctive about their life choices. The area is called the amygdala that makes them aggressive. Over some time, as they grow older into young adults, the frontal cortex develops, bringing the brain to acknowledge reasons and thus helping the same teenagers think and make informed decisions.

Additionally, they think that as adolescence, there is an increase in the connection between the cells in the brain as one grows old. Myelin gets developed around nerve cells that promote rapid impulse transmission along axons. These and other changes are important for the development of their coordinated actions, thoughts, and behavior.

What kind of changes do they experience?

It is no secret that as kids and adults, alike, grow old, their bodies go through all kinds of changes. Just as adults sometimes find it challenging to grapple with age, teenagers have it more challenging because they usually do not understand why and what is happening. Until a few years ago, they were kids running around, and suddenly they were starting to form opinions, think of freedom, and more.

A sense of self: Often, one of the questions people get tangled in is a sense of self. There are many personality changes that a teenager has to go through. It includes stuff like education choices, the personality they have to feel, understanding who they want to be as a person, and judging the world around them. They are now searching for their own identity and in the process want independence.

Bodily changes: All teenagers have physical changes as they grow older. Puberty is not easy for girls or boys. Girls get their menstruation cycles, boys have a crack in the voice, amongst other things. Also, they have physical changes as they grow from being a child to a young adult—all these changes as they start to realize their sense of self.

Sexuality: As kids become young adults, they tend to start with their sexuality and what they would like to explore. They start having feelings such as feeling shy, feeling flush, being attracted to sexuality, and more. As teenagers grow into adolescence, they evolve their relationships and find people attractive, which is new for their age.

Interaction: As their relationships with people change, how they interact and look inwards differs. They start to learn more and begin to prioritize (rightly or wrongly). They tend to become more rebellious and believe they can think for themselves, and they know better. With adults, they learn or start to realize they don’t have all the answers, and with peers, they start to make friends that could be inseparable as they have grown old together during these challenging times.

Social and cultural changes: Someone who is a friend suddenly becomes a suspect. Due to the stigmas attached and the social and cultural differences, kids who used to play together and had fun times suddenly got gendered. Suddenly, social and cultural changes start to impact an adolescent’s opinions, interactions, and actions.

How can parents help their teenagers?

Parents and guardians as responsible adults can help teenagers with their teenage years. Teenagers need all the help and support as they go through their torrential adolescence. Here is a list of some things you can do as a responsible adult to help your teenagers with their troubles:

Listen to them: Most people, children and adults alike, always need someone to listen. Teenagers sometimes need to be heard out. They often do not need your opinion; they want to talk to someone that can listen to them without interruptions and “expert” views.

Do not judge: As teenagers, they are going through our journey as we went through yours. However, it is still their journey. So, do not judge them on the decisions they make. Of course, you have to course-correct any wrong choices, but it will not help if they think you are just judging them.

Love them unconditionally: They are, after all, your own. Allow your child the option to come back to you. It will happen if your teen feels that they are loved and appreciated. They may be growing and changing, but they still rely on you to support, love, and go forth.

Treat them as equals: Their minds are evolving. They are going out into the world and forming opinions based on their awareness and interactions with friends. It means they also will contribute to conversations and state their points. Let them have their say. Give their words a time to shine too.

Do not talk down to them: Teenagers don’t like speaking against them. Speaking in derogatory language, implying you know more than they do, only worsens a conversation. It includes all kinds of shaming (body shaming, age shaming, and more).

Put yourself in their shoes: Understanding your teen gets easier when you try to connect with them before correcting them. You were a teen, too, and made mistakes. And your parents thought it was ok and was a part of you growing up. So, practice empathy with your teen and let them know it’s ok to make mistakes, be concerned and be self-conscious. Tell them it is just fine to feel grown-up for a moment and then behave like a kid. The struggle is hard, but you need to pull this off with them.

Be patient: Remember, teenagers are going through many bodily changes and changes in their minds. Not to undermine how our world as we know it is changing. So, yes, call them out on bad behavior, but do try and be patient when they act up a little, and you don’t entirely understand it.

Read up: It is essential to understand that your adolescence is changing. It is best to read up all about the child’s changes and know how to fix them. No one size fits all; so, different kids respond differently. But to see what could work for your teenager, the more information you have, the better.

Keep the conversation open: Be approachable. It will be better for you and your teenager if they come to you when worried or concerned about friendship, sexuality, love, drugs, issues, or just about anything. The more you encourage them to talk, the more they will come to you instead of going elsewhere.

Keep an eye out for issues: Certain things like stress, depression, addiction, social media addiction are all critical things to keep in check. Do keep a tab on the friends they make, the kind of conversations they have, and the places they go to without invading their privacy.

Seek help if needed: If you think a teenager is troubled, seek help. If you do not see when it happens, sometimes it could be too late to salvage the situation. Make sure you talk to an expert, get the teen to understand that this is important and you are trying to help.

Set reasonable limits and expectations: Over expectation can be difficult to handle both for parents and children. So, make sure you make the expectations practical. For instance, doing homework on time, meals should be eaten at the right time, follow the bedtimes schedules, and access to media is restricted. Going overboard with everything will only make them rebel more.

Pick your battles: Everything is not worth a fight. Is it essential that they put their clothes away on time? Or is it more important that they are respectful when they talk? Pick the battle you want to fight. It is laborious, but for sure, it will be worth the fight when your child grows up to be a responsible and decent adult.

Monitor what your kids see and talk: Though this might seem like you are snooping, they must know there are limitations for what to see and do. Peer pressure can sometimes make teenagers do things that even they know they should not do. So, ensure you keep a tab on who they talk to and how they respond.

Acknowledge that they are growing up: The world is opening up to your teenagers with opportunities, experiences, experiments, struggles, and all sorts of newness. Be there for them during this phase and acknowledge that they are growing up. Acceptance, acknowledgment, and proper guidance will make your teen independent, remarkable, and a healthy adult.

Peers are essential: During the teenage years, teenagers tend to pick teens that work for them. Try and stay as involved in those relationships as you can. Make sure you have a relationship with their parents so you can go to, to compare behavioral changes. Friends are great. However, peer pressure can be a challenge.

Be fair: The rules that apply to your child’s pre-teens may not apply to teenage years. Realize that the world has to widen up as your child grows. Indeed, the child is still your baby, but now the teenager is upon them. Give them a chance to live there and make decisions that are reasonable and age-appropriate.

Be firm, not strict: If you have decided on what is allowed and what is not, stick by it. Be acceptable about the choices made, so they know that you are serious about your expectations. When you keep changing your rules, it becomes easier for them to work around them. Being strict, screaming, and being mean never helps. And, this step, particularly, you have to start early, when they are little.

The elephant in the room, Social Media: Today’s world is a lot more different than how it used to be. Kids turn to social media a lot more these days. So, ensure that they get exposure to the right kind of information, let them know likes and dislikes do not define them, and talk to them about the conversations they are following and how it makes them feel. It is here to stay, and there is a reason it is called an influence.

Raising a teenager is probably one of the most challenging jobs that an adult has to do. But the good thing is that they could grow into beautiful adults. More importantly, you are part of the process. They say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” You can go back to that saying anytime you need. Do not feel alone in this process. Approach other parents and friends if you are troubled and feel better. You can reach out to professionals that can help too. Remember, if you suffer, so will your teenager looking at you. So make it better for yourself, so you can make it fantastic for them. Finally, always remember that we were all teens at some point in our lives.

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