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Parenting Teens with a Positive Perspective

Chances are if you ask any group of adults to remember their teenage years, you will get a range of descriptions that would not be considered particularly positive. “Who was I and how did my parents put up with me?” are questions that characterize those years .The difficulty in parenting teens is often blamed on physical and hormonal changes, mood instability and peer pressure. But, there are positive aspects of the adolescent brain that science is discovering.

In Dr. Daniel Siegel’s book, Brainstorm, he considers adolescence a “golden age for innovation.” While this may seem hard to accept if you are struggling with your teen’s attitude and behavior, it offers an interesting view into the development of creative thought. According to Siegel, brain growth in these teen years includes abstract and conceptual thinking, increased reward drive and ability to explore the world in new ways.

If the drive toward reward inspires risky and rebellious behavior, it is an understandable cause for concern, but something we must be prepared to address with curious and calm care. Teen years provide the opportunity to seek new experiences, test boundaries and try on different identities while remaining in connection with the adult community.

Do adolescents tend to shift between the child you cherish and the kid you don’t recognize? That straddling of two worlds comes from brain development which breaks the pattern of sticking to earlier knowledge and allows a new way of thinking, an important aspect of growing up and one that lasts into the mid-twenties. While your child who once idolized you may pick at every inch of you now and cause discomfort, it allows the teen to imagine separating from you one day. It may be a push, but is not meant to reject you completely and remaining attached with increased understanding helps both generations find balance in these transitional years.

Therapy with Teens and Adolescents, NYC

Working with teens in therapy offers particular challenges, especially when impulsive behavior leads to negative consequences, but it also provides the opportunity to find the positive aspects in brain change and allows the teen to express thoughts and feelings and explore the world from their evolving point of view, something which parents should encourage as well. While the phrase “pick your battles” may be practical advice, a more positive parenting approach is to recognize and reward evidence of this “golden age” of exploration as potential for bringing independence, creativity and confidence to the adults they will become.

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Joan Warren, LMFT

Joan Warren Therapy

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