As a caregiver to a teen, it may make your life a little easier if you know what’s going on with your teen’s brain. You may have noticed you and your teen driving each other crazy, your teen is more emotional, and they sometimes do things without thinking them through. You can help your teen (and yourself) through these times, including understanding “why,” tips for regaining emotional control, and even sharing what it’s like to be in charge.
A teen’s brain – It’s getting a tune up
At around 11 years, the brain begins a process of refining the prefrontal cortex. This area is responsible for impulse and emotional control, decision making, goal setting, and organization of many tasks. The amygdala—the emotional center – is the part of the brain that’s running the show. Add on a big dose of hormones, and… Ack! Eventually their hormones will even out and your teen will settle down into their young adult self. Talking with your teen about why they feel impulsive, along with strategies to regain emotional control, can help prevent them from saying or doing something they’ll regret.
The Power of “Maybe”
Your teen can say “maybe” when someone asks them to do something. Other strategies are; count to 50, do a quick pro and con list, get up and walk away, or say they need to pee to buy some time. Suggest they set up a code with a friend that means “I’m not into this.” Help your teen practice their impulse resistance skills. Remind your teen: if they say “maybe,” they must say “yes” or “no” eventually. It’s not fair to leave someone hanging. But saying “maybe” can help your teen stay true to their values, which can be very empowering.
When it comes to sexual activity “maybe” should not be a response. It will be confusing to their partner and could result in an unhappy situation. Tell them if they’re not sure, or are even a little bit uncomfortable, to say “no” and stop what they’re doing immediately. Yes, means yes.
Sexting – The Impulse Train Wreck
“Sexting” is sending text messages with pictures of their naked body, private body parts, or sexy pictures. Discuss with them that making, owning, or sending such pictures of anyone under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and is illegal.
The Power of Sharing Your View
Teen years can sometimes mean parents and kids challenge one another. Help your teen see things from your point of view. In your own words talk about how you’re feeling with them growing up, and with how wild the world is, that you may be afraid to let them go. If you are having a fight with your teen, go somewhere else to calm down, then return and resolve the discussion. This is a great way to model good relationships. Teaching your teen about relationships can help them make empowered decisions in line with their values.
This awesomeness is the parent version of the same chapter in my book for teens, Dating Smarts. You should buy it for yourself. And your kids. Get it here.