In order for parents of teenagers to better understand their adolescent youths, old notions will have to be accepted for what they truly are: old notions. It used to be parents—and scientists alike—thought we only have once chance to stimulate our children’s brains: during infancy, and if we miss that chance, it’s too late to hope to significantly influence their intelligence quotient. But science and technology of today are rapidly proving such old notions simply aren’t true.
By now, I’m hoping we all have opened our minds up to the emerging truths about the human brain, particularly in regards to the Teenage Brain. Personally, I’ve had quite a challenge changing my own dispositions toward my teenage son; maybe by the time our daughter is a teenager, I’ll be better at showing compassion and staying lovingly engaged in their lives, when they’re both teenagers.
The marvelous thing, in my opinion, about all of this stuff about brain science, is ALL of us…even adults into old age…can improve our brains and increase our intelligence and keep our brains lively and adept, instead of growing dim and sluggish.
In his book, The Myth of the First Three Years, John Bruer, debunks the long-held beliefs we only have 3 years, from our children’s infancy, to significantly influence our kids’ intelligence. We now know, we have all their lives! Surely, children learn languages most readily when their very little, but isn’t it great to know our teenagers, as difficult, moody, and impulsive as they can be, are also open for positive input from us, and are surprisingly receptive to our advice, counsel, and rules…if we’re compassionate of their feelings and struggles, and show them trust [tempered with loving counsel toward caution and consequences].
Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health who was featured on the PBS Special Report: Inside the Teenage Brain says:
“The best thing parents can do [for their teens] is spend loving, quality time with their children…”
Ellen Galinsky, a social scientist and President and Co-Founder of the Families and Work Institute, said there are enduring lessons for parents:
“Teens are actually yearning for more time with parents…”
More from Ms. Galinsky in a moment.
In the PBS special, Inside the Teenage Brain, one insightful mother who displayed a remarkable rapport with her TYPICAL teens [there’s footage of these sisters arguing with their jerky, big brother], warned against pushing teens away. Yet another mom pointed out how it’s crucial to “enable” kids to talk to us as parents, about anything WITHOUT fear of reprimand, ridicule, or being discounted just because they’re not adults. She said kids are a lot more attuned to what’s going on than what parents give them credit for [I’ve been astounded, myself, by the truth of this in my own kids].
Finally, from Ellen Galinsky, who discovered a surprising—yet touching—truth about kids’ perceptiveness, and a tremendous opportunity for parents and youth to bond greatly. It’s a bit long, but I urge you to please read it. I’ve include a few paragraphs as snippets, but the context is changed in no way, whatsoever:
“There’s a feeling sometimes among parents that when your kids turn into teens, that you’ve done your job in a sense, that it’s the peers who have the greatest influence, and that your influence is a lot less. That’s not what I heard from teens, particularly if they have a halfway decent relationship with their parent, which doesn’t mean that you don’t fight or disagree or they don’t make your life miserable. It doesn’t mean that. But if they feel like they’re respected, if they feel like they’re listened to, if they feel like they’re valued, they really want adults to help shape their views about world. They want adults to tell them about the world and how it works…
It was a real surprise to me, and I think it’s a surprise to parents whom I talked to — how often kids worry about their parents. We think about our worrying about our kids. But the kids actually worry about us, and they primarily worry because we’re tired and stressed. One out of three worries about his or her parents often or very often, and two-thirds worry some of the time. …
Ms. Galinsky was asked, ‘When you ask the kids whom do they admire, whom do they say?’
“When you ask children whom they admire, they often talk about their parents. If they have a good relationship, they talk about their parents.”
“Another surprise was I asked kids what they were going to remember most from this period in their life, and I asked parents to guess what the kids would say. And parents almost always guess the big event, the vacation, the wonderful family reunion, you know, the five-star kind of family thing. And kids talked about the very small, everyday rituals and traditions that say to them “We’re a family.” So those everyday things that we do really matter a lot.
One child talked about that when she came down the stairs to go to school, her dad said, “You go, tiger, you go get ‘em,” and that was what she was going to remember most from being a young person. Another child talked about being in bed and the wake-up song — this was not a little kid. But his mother always sang a wake-up song, and that’s what he was going to remember most. … That says to parents, “Have those rituals, have those traditions. Those are important, even with teens.”
To read the entire segment of Ellen Galinsky’s comments, from where I took these, visit this link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/interviews/galinsky.html
I hope my comments and sharing these things has inspired you to seek to be more compassionate and loving not just toward your teenagers…but toward all people.