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TEENS: GIGGLES TO TEARS


Book 5

Do you have an adolescence or teen in your household? What if you have more than one? Oh my! If that is true, I hope you take the time for a little 'R & R' (research & restraint). Your child is about to experience one of the most confusing and frustrating times in their human development - and it may last for years!

LOOKING BACK

I used to joke when my daughters were teens, "If I could just put them in a brown paper bag when they turned 13 and take them back out in about 3 years, they would be beginning to act like human beings again." All joking aside, I was quite wrong in the number of years that teen changes were beginning and ending. Research tells us today that teen development likely begins at the onset of puberty, which in fact could be as early as 10 and even younger in some children. In other words, the age of puberty continues to become earlier and earlier in children as time goes by.

THE BRAIN IS CHANGING TOO

Book 1
In relationship to the onset of puberty, a teen's brain begins to change just as the rest of their body is changing. At the front of the brain is the area called the prefrontal cortex. This area is responsible for things such as decision-making, judgement, and more. What we see in the prefrontal is a constant relationship of experiences from the past building on each other and making sense of it.

There is a second area in the brain called the limbic system.  Think of it as a lookout for the brain searching for things that could be considered an emotional benefit or risk - most important, the limbic is constantly looking for things considered rewarding. The limbic sends a message to the prefrontal cortex which analyzes the message and decides what to do next. But, what if there is no decision of what to do next? (The limbic is not able to do the work of the prefrontal cortex.)

WHAT DOES ALL THAT MEAN?

The prefrontal cortex is developing during the teen years and cannot always take in all the messages coming from the limbic. Think of it as a version of limbic overload, that allows the rest of the brain to react in ways such as impulsiveness, poor reasoning, aggression, and susceptibility to other teens and their behaviors - some of which may not good. These stressful situations can be a fast path to limbic overload.

Book 3
Example: Imagine a teen frustrated by a newly developed relationship that is coming to an end (this is an example from my newest teen book of the Book of Katie series). The character in the book is becoming more stressed by the moment and begins to send message after message to the prefrontal cortex. The character suddenly can't think of what to do (Teens often describe this moment as going blank.). At that point in time, the brain can react in a multitude of ways such as uncontrollable crying, flight, or aggressiveness. Unfortunately, the brain will not likely have the benefit of the prefrontal cortex in choosing a good decision. In this example, a young adult worked to calm down the character in the book, removed the stressors, and began to slowly add new information to the prefrontal cortex.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AS A PARENT?

Read everything you can get your hands on and not be afraid of professional advice for better parenting skills.

Last... be patient! Control your own decision-making and remain calm.


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