The Rollercoaster of Adolesence - NABS
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The Rollercoaster of Adolesence

Words by Debra Douglas, Senior Support Advisor at NABS

Prompted by my line manager I went along to the Working Parents Masterclass on ‘The Teenage Years’ at NABS this week. She knows I have a 13 year old daughter who likes to give me challenges, sometimes on a daily basis!

If I’m honest she has been giving me these challenges since she was about 8 or 9 and I discovered in the Masterclass that this is because children start adolescence from as young as 8 for girls and 10 for boys. Throughout the following years up until their mid-20’s they will ride a rollercoaster of physical, mental and emotional changes and as parents we get taken along for the ride – yippee!!

There were 10 mums and dads in the room, with their children’s ages ranging from six to 21 years so crossing the whole spectrum of adolescence. Our speaker was Julie Johnson, a psychotherapist and PHSE consultant in schools, who explained that with the progress of neuroscience it is now believed that adolescence in fact ends at about 25. So, all the more reason to find out how teenagers tick and how I can stay friends with, and remain connected to my daughter.

Thankfully it was very reaffirming to know that I am doing lots of the right things in dealing with situations that can come up. Julie informed us that a kid’s adolescent brain has a lack of cognitive control as this lags behind emotional response while the frontal cortex develops. This means that we find ourselves living with a Jekyll and Hyde character as they respond emotionally, because they cannot analytically think through a problem.

It was pleasing to know that I already do a lot of the following; but Julie explained that in order to best support our children as they grow, our job as a parent is to:

  • Guide and keep communication open
  • Listen and allow them to express their opinion even if it differs from our own
  • Trust them, give them space and allow them to make their own mistakes
  • Compromise and negotiate when discussing issues but we must also set clear boundaries. So, if they go to a friend’s house and they come back later than arranged, say you’ll knock half an hour off the next time they go out – and stick to it! Teenagers are resistant and rebellious to control, so we have to be mindful of their temperament and proceed with caution when punishing Allow them independence: As they pull away from us their friends & peers are the VIPs in their lives; we should try not to be critical of who they make friends with, but express concern if we feel they are not suited to our child Encourage them to take healthy risks and talk through the unhealthy choices they might make Praise and compliment – this is an age where they need affirmation as they try to find out who they are. Love them unconditionally, but understand that discipline provides security, self-worth and significance, plus strengthens our relationship with them
  • Talk to them. From as early as 8 or 9 years old, children start to think about sex and can participate in sexual behaviour; it’s very important that we talk about sex and puberty with our kids and not let them learn from their peers or the Internet in the first instance, or leave it to teachers as they only get a basic sex education in schools. They also need to understand that what they think, feel or are experiencing is normal and emphasise that love and security play a big part in our sexual experiences

Finally, make sure they get enough sleep! REM sleep allows their brain and body to recover from learning and helps process the stresses of the day. Try and make sure they turn off devices that emit blue light an hour before bed, as this can help achieve a proper night’s sleep.

Getting home that evening I decided to start to put this into practice by asking my daughter to give me the iPad to use and put her iPhone away an hour before bed. Time will tell if she continues to do this, but last night she complied happily when I explained what the benefits to her would be.

Above all we should give teenagers our warmth, love, support and know when to stand firm, whilst also ensuring there is lots of laughter and good humour around them to encourage their growth into fully fledged adults!!

The NABS Working Parents Initiative offers advice, support, coaching and information to industry mums and dads, their colleagues and their employers. The programme of Masterclasses, mentoring and upskilling opportunities exists not just for new parents, but parents of teenagers and even parents-to-be. Find out more on the Working Parents Portal.

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