Not surprising, the most frequent questions we get from parents revolve around the parenting of teenagers. The teenage or adolescent years present so many challenges for both the youth and his/her parent it is no wonder why this period of child rearing is so stressful. On a previous show with an adolescent expert, Dr. Judith Kaufman we focused on some of the issues dealing with parenting teens however we might not have paid sufficient attention to what parents can do. We decided to re-visit the topic with a different approach. We start off with a quick summary of what is so unique about development during the adolescent years.
Some of the key points that parents need to be aware of are linked to the overriding theme of adolescence – that is figuring who I am as an individual. To accomplish this necessary step in development teenagers will start to push away from their parents and substitute the opinions of their peers above all else.
In addition, the adolescent brain is also going through changes. For example, the ability to make good decisions about risks and to make plans is part of the Executive Function skill set. Research has demonstrated that during the teen years the part of the brain that controls Executive Function is not fully developed despite the fact that at the same time our teens are achieving independence and are called upon to deal with complex choices including coping with body changes and their sexuality.
Our recommendations for parents start with effective communication principles. Communication is how we build and maintain relationships and parents of teens need to be very mindful of how they communicate with their children in order to be there for them during this stressful period of development. We highlight and illustrate how validating what we hear and see in our children’s behavior coupled with active listening skills insures that we keep the communication door wide open with our adolescents.