Parenting Teenagers: How Parents Can Support Developing Adolescent Brains
Adolescence is an important time for your teen. During this life stage, their brain goes through important physical changes that affect the way they process information, respond to emotions, and make decisions.
But the brain of a teenager is still “under construction” during this time. And as a parent, there are things you can do to help their brains make the most of this transition. Here’s how you can support your adolescent’s brain development.
Let Your Teen Take Healthy Risks
Adolescents want to experiment with different experiences. Letting them take some healthy risks can benefit their brain development. New and different experiences help your child develop an independent identity and explore grown-up behavior.
Examples include encouraging your teen to try out for a sports team, ask someone on a date, volunteer, or get involved in an organization.
Help Your Teen Find Healthy Outlets
While this phase can be exciting, it also comes with stress. Help your child find new outlets for feelings. Because they may be expressing and trying to control new, unfamiliar emotions, it’s important that they channel it into a positive outlet.
Many teenagers find that they enjoy participating in or watching sports. Other common outlets include music and writing.
Assist Your Teen in Making Choices
You can be a great source of support in helping your child learn to make good choices. They may be asking themselves new and tricky questions like:
- Should I get a job?
- What do I do if a friend offers me a cigarette or alcohol?
- Is it okay to become sexually active?
- Should I ask my crush on a date?
Talk through decisions step by step with your child. Ask about courses of action they can take and talk through potential consequences, as well. Encourage them to weigh the risk and reward.
Keep Up with Routine
Routine is important during this time of change in adolescents. Routines provide structure when many other aspects of their life may feel confusing.
These routines might be based around school habits and family timetables.
Set Boundaries and Give Positive Rewards When Parenting Teenagers
Although they’re learning more about themselves and exploring the aspects of adulthood, young people still need guidance and limit-setting from their parents and other adults.
Provide boundaries and opportunities for negotiating those boundaries. This will help you keep the conversation open and help your child feel comfortable coming to you for advice and support.
It’s also important to reward positive behavior in your adolescent. Offer frequent praise or rewards like extended car privileges, cooking their favorite meal, extending curfew times, providing new supplies for a hobby they enjoy, or simply just giving them a hug. This type of positive feedback and reward reinforces pathways in your child’s brain.
You can also strive to be a positive role model. Your behaviour will show your child the behaviour you expect.
Stay Connected and Discuss Development
This time can be confusing for adolescents. Staying connected with your child will provide a source of comfort and support for both of you. You may want to keep an eye on their activities and who they’re befriending. That’s understandable! Try to be open and approachable about this so your child still feels like they have room to explore.
You can also talk to them about their developing brain. Helping them understand this important period of growth can help your child process their feelings. It also might make taking care of their brain and mental health more interesting for them!
Entering adolescence is a whole new adventure for both you and your child. Their brains are changing and you can help them make the most of it by being a source of support and helping them understand these changes. Need some parenting support of your own? Reach out to us!