We were all teenagers once. We might even use those exact words to the dissatisfied groan of our grouchy child. So, why does it seem that teens can sometimes be practically alien to us? The truth is that many parents don’t think with the perspective they need when it comes to understanding their teenager and why they are the way they are. Whether you’re the parent a teen or you’re just looking forward to the tumultuous time in your toddler’s life, here’s what we need to know about teens.
Their decision-making skills aren’t fully formulated yet
“You did what?” are words not too uncommon in the life of a teenager. This isn’t the case for every teen, nor should you act like it is. But if you find out that your kid got in trouble, did something stupid, or simply reacted on an impulse they can control, do remember that they are still children. According to How Stuff Works, the prefrontal cortex of a teenager isn’t fully formed yet. They may be starting to look and sound a little more like an adult, but the biggest part of the brain related to impulse control and decision-making isn’t fully formed yet. If they do something stupid, reckless, or even a little insensitive, it doesn’t mean that they are turning into a monster. It sometimes means they just got a little lizard-brained.
They are dealing with a lot
As adults, many of us can forget how tough school was. Believe it or not, it’s getting tougher. The standard of academic challenges we set up from our children are getting harder at every age. Teens are dealing not only with school life, but navigating relationships, emotions, the dreaded puberty, and so on. The better you prepare them for these challenges, the better. School might actually be the easiest thing to prepare for. You can help them get organized, schedule their time, create a study space for them, and provide practical advice. The other stuff can be a little trickier.
Yes, they really do need that much sleep
The more you look into teenagers and their bodily needs, it can get a little heartbreaking that adults tend to misunderstand them so much. If you think your child is lazy because they sleep all day, you could be dead wrong about them and by forcing them up, you could be actively harming them. According to Mattress Advisor’s research, teenagers need up to ten hours of sleep a night. Not only do they need more sleep, but they need it at different times. Their hormones are messing up their body clocks, so they can wake up refreshed and ready to go and need a nap a couple of hours later. What’s more, their clock nudges forward, so they need to wake up later than usual, but our current school system doesn’t really allow for that. So, when you can, let them sleep in.
They know more than they let on
As a parent, we are used to shielding our kids from all the stuff in life we don’t want them to see. We’re not talking about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll (though it is definitely a good idea to be more open to talking with them about those subjects.) We are talking about your child’s exposure to your own stresses Teens become much more aware of money trouble, relationship issues, and other things stressing out you, their parents. If you can start to communicate honestly about the problems you are facing, you might be surprised to find out they are more compassionate than you think. You might also encourage them to share their own problems because, believe me, they have them.
It is one of the most tumultuous times for mental health
Depression, anxiety, and stress are all very real risks when you’re a teenager. Not only is the high school a practical pressure cooker of emotions and different challenges, but those hormones are kicking into overdrive. As Center for Discovery states, teens are actually at more risk of depression now than has ever been measured before. That might be in part due to the changing nature of the society we live in, but it might also be because we are starting to better recognize mental health issues. If you are getting worried about your child’s behavior, it might be that they are suffering and could need some help.
A lot of them have worries about the future
Most kids don’t really all that concerned about what they are going to be doing five years from now, but the truth is that this might just be a façade they use to trick not just you but themselves. Teens are constantly bombarded with the idea that they are shaping their future life right now and, to be honest, that scares a lot of them. They face the paradox of choice where they have so many options that they get paralyzed and don’t know how to prepare. You can help your teen find their passions and talk about potential career plans. Ask them what they want to do and help them understand the route they need to take. You want them to get good grades, so they can go on to get a job but if you focus solely on that, they are less likely to talk to you about their education because they don’t believe your share their priorities.
Some independence is crucial
Before you go sticking your nose into every aspect of their life, however, you have to recognize that they do need independence. It’s not going to be too long before they expect to leave the roost. By teaching them life skills related to independence, such as time management, job skills, and financial sense, you can help prepare them. It’s also a way to show that you are starting to respect them as people capable and ready to take better care of themselves.
Teens can be tough, but parents can be tough, too. Be patient, resilient, know how to set boundaries, but show that you expect success from them in the positive way possible while still supporting them when they have trouble. Teens are people, though sometimes they can seem like animals.