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Understanding Your Teenagers Brain: Two Tips for Fostering Healthy Relationships

Watching your child grow from toddler to pre-teen to teen is an incredible yet challenging journey. The experiences of one person growing and changing doesn’t just affect them in isolation, but impacts the entire family unit as a whole. The reputation for a teen’s process of growth is also notoriously chaotic and hormone-fuelled. Pop culture depicts teens as rarely rational and emotionally-driven, and very often at odds with their parents or adult figures. The reality is that this growth and transformation can be an opportunity to grow closer together as a family.

SIM’s approach toward understanding teenagers is often influenced by the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel, an advocate for using psychology and science to celebrate rather than dread the teen mind. He advocates for parents and teens to work closely together to understand the brain and turn conflict into connection. With Dr. Siegel’s work in mind there are two simple things any parent can do when faced with a frustrating moment with their teen.

1. First and foremost, focus on maintaining a healthy relationship with your child

Both individually and as a society we develop within the context of relationships. Family relationships are a key determinant to how a teen’s world is shaped. Demonstrating both unconditional love and healthy boundaries in relationships is a key component to determining how teens’ brains get rewired as they grow. Ensuring that you put effort into maintaining such a relationship with your teen will provide a resilient frame of reference they will use for the rest of their lives. We know this isn’t always easy but we want to emphasize that staying mindful of these things even when times are tough is so important.

2.Stay present through the highs and the lows.

It can be so easy to get caught up in emotions, ours or others’. As teens grow and their brain develops, they may sometimes seem at the mercy of impulsive or erratic emotions. As suggested by Yale psychologist Dr. Diana Divecha, acute emotions are felt intensely for a minute or so, then begin to wane. When triggered by your teen, take a moment to pause, take deep breaths, and wait for that minute to pass. This allows space between emotion and reaction, which sets the example for your teen that while there is nothing wrong with feeling any given emotion, there is also a responsibility in the way we react to that emotion.

We pride ourselves at SIM for walking along healing journeys with both teens and parents. We believe in a mind, body, and soul approach towards finding and sustaining balance, and are honored to be on your path in some way and are here to support you in living to your greatest potential.

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