Raising teenagers can be a difficult, confusing and frustrating but it can also be exciting, rewarding and full of new experiences for parents and teenagers. The book, Parenting the Teenage Brain: Understanding a Work in Progress, is a great resource for parents, teachers and tutors who interact with teens on a regular basis.
This fascinating book, by Sheryl Feinstein, looks at the developing brain of teenagers and explains why adolescents behave the way they do and how adults can help foster teenagers’ growth and development during this crucial stage in life.
Feinstein uses different scientific studies that show the spike in neural activity that is going on in certain parts of the teenage brain. This period of growth in the brain allows adolescents to absorb information and develop new skills. It also affects how they think about certain things, changes in their emotional responses, decision-making skills, how they view themselves and even the consideration of how they are viewed by others.
Most teens don’t understand what changes are taking place in their minds and bodies, therefore, they can’t explain why they do or say certain things. You may try to talk to your child about their behavior or attitude but their response is full of anger and frustration or they may tell you to just leave them alone. You are not the only one who doesn’t understand your teenage child.They also don’t understand themselves.
Teens need structure and stability at home and in school. They also need good role models to look up to. Part of helping your child to succeed is being an active part of their lives. If your teenager is having a hard time, try to talk to them about it. If there is another adult, like your child’s tutor, who your child is comfortable opening up to, ask your tutor to spend time during tutoring sessions just talking with your child. Having a tutor who is a good role model can help your teenager learn how to cope with new situations. Your child should know that they are not alone, but are part of a team.
An interesting concept, which Feinstein points out in the book, is that during adolescence, certain skills are getting hard-wired into the brain. This means that whatever teens are doing during this crucial developmental period could possibly shape their brain for the rest of their lives. For example, if a teen spends their time reading, studying, exercising, playing musical instruments etc., these parts of the brain will maintain these skills. If they are sitting around all day watching TV then their brain will not be able to develop and lock in other functions of the brain. This is referred to as the “use it or lose it” principle.
Knowing that if teens don’t use certain parts of the brain could cause them to lose the ability to develop those areas later in life is not just good for parents and teachers to know, but this principle can motivate teens to use their brains while they are young. If teens are helped to see that doing homework, reading, tutoring sessions, and sports activities will have a positive impact on their adult lives, this will motivate them to use their brain while it is still developing.
This book is full of helpful examples of how to effectively communicate with teens, parenting tips on how to make it through the teenage years, scientific facts to help adults understand typical teen behaviors, book club discussion questions and more. The more adults understand the developing teenage brain the more they will be able to accept and adapt to these changes and help facilitate this life-changing transition from teen into adulthood.