Teenagers....... Love them. They carry a bad rap for being rebellious, impulsive, risk-takers, mouthy and emotional. Really, I say they are courageous, strong, creative and carry a desire for deep relationship. They can present a challenge though if we do not understand what their needs are and how to attune to them without being too intrusive. The teenage brain is not just a smaller version of an adult brain. It is actually quite different we have found. It is remodeling. Do you know that the reward center in the brain is heightenend during adolescence, which makes pleasure seeking a more vibrant sensory experience and inhibitory brain structures are less active- thus the risk taking, impulsive but also the creative and curious side. How do we best come alongside? As we have talked about earlier, the brain is essentially created and recreated through experiences. Having positive communication, shared pleasant activities and respecting their views, strengths, and imagination builds connections that increase their confidence towards becoming the adult they are meant to be. This does not come through lecturing or punishing- I am not saying to abandon structure but rather balance. Fill the role of a coach. Listen to their views and respect them, don't argue them out of opinions that differ from you. The only thing accomplished is distance in your relationship. If your relationship has been hindered by other influences, alienation is one way, then adolescence is a time that can be ripe for repair of that rupture. SO much hope as that brain remodels into a mature adult brain.
One great resource on the Teenage Brain is "Brainstorm" by Dan Seigel M.D. One of my favorites using Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment research to understand our teens.