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Parenting Tips: How to Ensure Healthy Brain Development in your Teen - Part 3

Updated on February 24, 2013
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Encouraging Positive Behavior

Ensuring Healthy Brain Development - Part 3

For part 1 please click here

For part 2 please click here

Bringing out the positive…

Due to the emotional and physical nature of adolescence (including the brain development) teens are much more likely to engage in high-risk activities, have extreme emotions (that can change within minutes), make impulsive decisions, and take more risks than ever before. Because of this it is a very delicate time in your child’s developmental growth. As a parent it is vitally important during this time for you to encourage positive, and healthy behaviours in order to strengthen the positive connections in the brain.

As your child enters this stage it is important for you to remember that some risk taking is healthy and necessary for emotional and spiritual growth. These risks allow your child to experience new and different things; it helps them to establish their own identity and independence. It aids them to explore adult-like behaviour so that they are able to mature into healthy, functioning adults.

So how do you help your child to create positive risk-taking experiences (and no that is not an oxymoron)?

Assist your child in the following ways:

Teach them to express themselves positively. Help your child to express and control their emotions in a positive way like: writing music, poetry narrative pieces, or through artwork, singing, charity work, sports or a club that they have an interest in. These outlets allow your child to de-stress, express feelings and feel like they are contributing something worthwhile. Hint: For both boys and girls charity work is an excellent way to improve their self-worth and to help them grow into compassionate, giving adults.

Learning to make decisions. When your child has a difficult decision to make, talk through the decision step by step. Get your teen to think of different courses of actions and their possible consequences. Another effective method is to teach your teen to list the positives and negatives of their decision on a piece of paper. In doing so, they are able to revisit their decision and compare the positives and negatives, weighing up what is more important to them.

Learning responsibility. Give your teen a clear routine, chores and set structures around them during the week (weekends should provide some downtime - while I understand the dog still needs to be fed on Saturday and Sunday, you could maybe allow the family to set the dinner table together over the weekend). Make sure the chores and routines are structured around the family’s set activities. Take certain things into consideration like: if you know that on a Wednesday evening, your teen loves to watch their favourite TV show, be a bit flexible and let them feed the pets earlier that day.

Set the boundaries and rules with your teen. Learning to negotiate is a powerful tool for them to take with them into adulthood. Before you begin, have a list of therules that are non-negotiable (like alcohol, smoking, cussing etc.) and those that are negotiable (like curfews, chores, routines etc.).

Make sure that you reward positive behaviour with praise. This will reinforce the positive neuro-pathways to the brain. You can never tell your child enough how much you love them, or how proud you are of them.

Establishing strong bonds. Ensure that you establish a warm, approachable relationship with your teen. Spending time with your teen and sharing good times, helps them to bond to you. Teens that have strong bonds with their parents are less likely to rebel. Strong family bonds will also help your teen to feel more secure and less stressed.

Be a positive role model. Teens learn more from the way you act than from what you say. They will see you as a hypocrite if you are telling them to show good sportsmanship, while you are hurling abuse at their coach during a match.

Talk to your child about his developing brain. If your teen understands what is happening, and why they are feeling the way they do, then they will be better equipped to handle situations when they crop up.

For more information about teen brain development click here.

In Conclusion

This time in your teen’s life is really exciting (a little daunting…yes…but nevertheless exciting). With the correct guidance and loving relationships, your teen won’t feel so out of control during the teen years.

Even though it is important to teach your teen how to handle conflicts and issues on their own, there will be times when you will need to step in and take over. If you see that your child is clearly not coping with a situation, you have to make moves to protect them by taking the situation out of their hands and dealing with it yourself (try keeping this strategy to the minimum; or you will disempower your child). Situations like out of control bullying, or a conflict with a teacher, or weak academic performance; needs to have some type of adult interference.

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