Have you ever wondered or even worried about what is going on with your teen’s behavior? Mood swings, falling for peer pressure, questioning the meaning of life, expressing themselves through wild hairstyles, and perhaps the scariest for a parent…engaging in activities that could cause harm (another speeding ticket?!). As a teen therapist that works closely with parents, I am often asked “Is my teen out of control? Are they ok?!” or “When will their hormones balance out so they are past this phase of life?!”.
Parents are always surprised when I respond with “Yes, this is a wonderful time! How can we truly cultivate all they are experiencing?” I then give them Dr. Dan Siegal’s book, Brainstorm: the power & purpose of the adolescent brain (2013). This is the beginning of helping parents shift how they interpret these behaviors, and yes, start to feel positive about them!
Dr. Dan Siegal among other things, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, is a leading psychologist in the field of neuroscience, and has dedicated his research to learning more about the developments of the teen brain. Siegal encourages us to shift our focus from thinking teens are full of drama and chaos, to embracing the bravery and creativity that is emerging! We can do this by cultivating 4 vital features of development that are happening in the adolescent brain. Something that Siegal calls “The ESSENCE of Adolescence”.
Why are teens so moody?
“ES” or Emotional Spark is to blame for our teen’s big emotions and moodiness. While it is difficult to experience emotional storms and moodiness; the purpose for this increase in emotion is a powerful passion to live life fully and to capture life being on fire.
Why don’t they want to be around me anymore?
SE: Social Engagement is the reason that our teens push parents away and pull their peers closer. Peer pressure is a risk, but the upside is that supportive relationships are the key factor associated with medical and mental health, longevity, and happiness.
What is going on with their behavior?
N: Novelty-seeking emerges from shifts in the brain’s dopamine system. This is the reason teens seek out thrills and risks. The downside is risk-taking and injury, but the upside is having the courage to leave their comfort zone, take risks such as studying abroad, or trying new things.
Will teens change the world for the better?
CE: Creative Exploration of adolescence is found as teens push against the status quo and not simply accepting the world for what it appears to be. Not conforming to life as usual can be disorienting and stressful, however there is a development of passion and the discovery of new innovations!
What do I do?
So what can we do about this? How can we support our teens when there is so much beyond our control? And how has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted each of these areas? Read more about Ways the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Our Teen’s ‘Essence’ and How We Can Support in the Lakeview and Roscoe Village Chamber blog!