If you can't understand teens, neither can we! It's all in their brains.
Sarah Bowman: Teens stay up all night on the phone and then can't get out of bed in the morning. They tell us they hate us, and then cry on our shoulder. Scientists who study brain development have learned that the frontal cortex grows much more during puberty and adolescence than it does in the first few years of life. Apparently it's the executive functioning of the brain that develops during the teen years -- which makes sense when you realize that arguments between parents and teens often center on risky behaviors. (Teens think they're invulnerable; we know they're not.)
Turns out, keeping your teen on track is still an old-fashioned task:
1. Use It or Lose It: Whatever activity your kid does a lot of during puberty will imprint on his or her brain -- and (combined with your teen's genetic material) shape his or her future. This is the best reason I have ever heard for telling your kids not to drink or do drugs in high school: The brain is in its most fragile state at this time, and damage done during this developmental stage can be permanent.
2. Should I Stay or Should I Go? The goal of adolescence is for kids to separate their identities from their parents'. But as one of the brain scientists said of this age, "Confidence is something clutched at, not held." Having a close relationship with an adult is about the most important predictor of adult success as anything else. The trick is to know when to ask questions and when to shut up and listen.
3. ZZZ's to A's: Kids need 9.25 hours of sleep a night to help their brains reorganize and be ready to learn new tasks the next day. Most teens get an average of 7.5 hours -- meaning that they're operating at a deficit. If there's one silver bullet to help your kids do well (in school, in relationships and in life), it's to insist that they get more sleep.
Scientists inform us that most kids are actually yearning to spend more time with their parents. So while your kids are sleeping in this weekend, make a big batch of pancakes and wait for them at the kitchen table. Just pour the syrup and listen.
|Sarah Bowman is the cofounder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University and worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two teenagers.|