Act like a teenager??? What??
Aren’t we trying to get them to act more like adults?? "Hurry up and grow up!!" (I think I even wrote a blog to that effect!!)
But what if there’s something we can learn from them, embrace and even encourage.
In some Indigenous tribes in South America they have a tradition - in the evenings the whole community gathers to listen to the elders tell stories and share their wisdom and in the mornings the children teach everyone how to play. Even the most respected elders will join in and start acting like monkeys or other silliness.
We all need to remember how to play and this is the gift of small children.
But the gift of teenagers??
They’ve got a pretty bad name - tormented, troubled, bitchy, difficult etc. etc….
I love working with teens. Yhey still have this childish sense of fun and play and they have a fantastic spirit of adventure and exploration.
Working towards social change and environmental sustainability I’ve heard others say, "if only we could somehow bring together the wisdom of the elders with the creativity of youth”. We need to listen to each other. We need to recognise that absolutely everyone has something important to contribute, including you, and including your teen.
I’ve been reading Dr Daniel J. Siegel’s book “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” and he spells this out with fantastic scientific precision.
He says that these four features of brain development in adolescence not only need to be cultivated in teens but are actually essential for all of us.
Just as small children remind us how to play, teens can remind us of these four things.
4 ways you need to act more like a teen:
1. Emotional spark… mood swings anyone??... yes the emotional intensity of teens can be… well… intense!... but how many adults do you know who have lost their enthusiasm… their joy de vivre… their fire and their passion…. this is something we need to acknowledge and utilise in teens… they learn more about things they feel strongly emotional about… what lights their fire.. fuels their passion… we need to keep that passion burning all throughout life…
2. Social engagement… gangs… peer pressure… fitting in… popularity contests…. social engagement is all important for teens… and for all of us… we all need supportive relationships… how can you reach out and develop your support network?... the age of collaboration is upon us… perhaps teens can teach us a thing or two…
3. Novelty… risk taking… danger… teenagers are more physically fit and healthier than children or adults but they are more likely to die an avoidable death… scary stuff… how can this possibly be seen as a positive trait… well consider if your teen never took a risk… forever stayed in their comfort zone… was too afraid to grow… (read my blog about letting your teen fail here)… what if a chick never jumped from its nest… it would never fly… your teen’s brain is hardwired to have a lower threshold for risk taking... it serves an evolutionary purpose… and it can prevent us from becoming stuck in a rut as adults….
4. Creative Expression… “with the problems our world faces today… never before have we so desperately needed a way to think beyond our usual strategies to create innovative ways of sustainable living on our precious planet”… yes we need creative solutions to overwhelming problems… and teens may just be the ones to lead the way…
There’s a wealth of fantastic info in “Brainstorm” and I highly recommend it for you and your teen. There are stories of transformation, mindfulness practices, and for your teen it may bring some self-awareness and perhaps self-control!! And hopefully for both of you a more understanding and open relationship.
Siegel also points out the importance of teens having supportive relationships with other adults in their wider community. The natural tendency of teens is to push against parents and they need other adults to turn to for security and connection. Social engagement is great but if your teen is only connecting with other teens they may not be getting the wisest guidance.
Embracing social engagement as a parent means finding supportive relationships which can provide you with reflective space and guidance.