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10 Reasons Why Teens Are Tops!
Awkward or awesome?
Little kids are hard work, but they're so darn adorable…we are nuts about them anyway. Little Tucker in his OshKosh overalls, little Katie with her dimpled smile. Positively edible.
Roll on ten years, and all the challenges of adolescence hit these kids like a Tonka Toy dump truck: peer pressure, pimples, puppy-fat, puberty. It’s a tough time. Remember?
For many adults, it’s not a very endearing age. With their sullen, moody ways, teens don’t always show their best side to the world. But there is a best side, believe me, you just need to dig a little deeper. So let’s take a moment to celebrate what’s awesome about this awkward age:
The Teenage Brain...
"...the neural networks that help brain cells (neurons) communicate through chemical signals are enlarging in teen brains. Learning takes place at the synapses between neurons, as cells excite or inhibit one another and develop more robust synapses with repeated stimulation. This cellular excitement, or “long-term potentiation,” enables children and teenagers to learn languages or musical instruments more easily than adults."
(excerpt from Harvard Magazine, The Teen Brain)
10 Reasons Teens are Cool
- Teens have ideas and opinions! It’s not always easy, especially if yours is the strong silent type, but getting older kids talking can be fascinating. Think about some of the topics being taught at high school: current affairs, international issues, sociology, really cool stuff! So many new ideas are taking hold in these kids’ brains! Our teenagers bring home all kinds of subjects that they have been debating and arguing in school and it’s made for some pretty lively dinner conversation. I find myself reading up on the topics they're interested in just to make sure I have something to bring to the table!
- Teens have a sense of humor! Of course little kids do too, but unless you’re a big fan of poopy jokes, it kind of leaves you cold. It’s truly fun to share a joke with your older kids on the same level, to see their sense of humor mature and develop.
- Teens are useful! I haven’t lifted a bag of mulch in a couple years. Suitcases? No way! And babysitting younger siblings? Great, take back your social life now!
- Teens are photographs coming into focus! You worked painstakingly hard to give your kid every opportunity in life. For years, all those activities and clubs, vacations and holidays, parties and trips were absorbed by your children. Now the experiences that really struck a chord with them are coming into focus, shaping and defining who they are and their direction in life, whether it’s music or sports, theatre or politics. Something during these seminal years will take hold and truly fire them up and, as a parent, it's pretty amazing to see.
- Teens are the future! On the leading edge of society, their interests and trends shape the way we live. They discovered Facebook, i-tunes and youtube, then companies, organizations and finally we discovered it too. Whether we love ‘em or loathe ‘em, they will be running the planet for the next few decades. So we’d better sit up and take notice!
- Teens still need us! Sure, they need their 6,000 friends on Facebook more, but parents still play an important role in supporting and being there for teenagers. A friend of mine returned to working once her kids reached the teen years, because as she put it, she needed NOT to be always available for her older kids. Let them figure stuff out themselves, she said. Well, she does have a point because teaching independence is a crucial developmental step for older kids. But it’s equally important not to “check out” and assume kids will figure everything out themselves. They need you to be there when they make mistakes, to talk about why those mistakes were made, and how to avoid them in future. Your child may not admit to it, but they need you to listen to them. You, with all your experience navigating the teen years yourself, are the best sounding board for your unsure teenager. Just pick your moment carefully, and stay calm!
Dr. Jay Giedd discusses the latest findings on what make teens tick:
While 95 percent of the human brain has developed by the age of six, scientists tell FRONTLINE that the greatest spurts of growth after infancy occur just around adolescence.
Inside the Teenage Brain (pbs.org Frontline report)
7.Teens are passionate! While young children typically live in the moment, enjoying life in all its myriad forms as it skips by each day, older children will typically start to focus on specific interests, become involved, commit time and energy, become advocates for causes, or teams, or hobbies. As a parent, it is fulfilling to see your child deeply engaged with an interest.
8. Teens are changing faster than any other sector of the population! They always have been, but now with technology advancing at unprecedented speed, sweeping teenagers along with it, this group is even more fascinating to watch. It’s easy to condemn all this cyber-time as wasted time (I do regularly!) but beneath the surface, these kids are sharper, more savvy, more connected than previous generations can imagine. Theirs is an entirely different skill set, operating at an entirely different speed, and because most of us do not share this with them, we find it hard to appreciate. The truth is, we can only hope to be thrown a tow-rope and be dragged along with them!
9. Teens can do stuff themselves! Please note I said can, not will (the "will" part is up to you to enforce!). Nevertheless, unlike little kids who need everything doing for them, teens can do their own laundry, prepare snacks and light meals, take care of homework and (oh bliss!) drive themselves to their many distant activities!
10. Teens regularly clean out your refrigerator! I used to have all kinds of little plastic pots carefully labeled and dated (“left-over lasagna” etc). Not any more! Leftovers make it to the next day if lucky, then poof, they’re gone! Keeps the fridge cleaned out nicely (unfortunately, your wallet, too).
These kids are on the threshold of life itself, caught disarmingly between childhood and adulthood. They are the in the midst of the most rapidly changing years of their life. It is exciting, as a parent, to watch as these changes take hold, build self-esteem, and create formative opportunities. Get to know these kids, and you will find that beneath the baggy pants and grumpy looks, they are really interesting people. Tread carefully (think eggshells!) and you may well find that your older kids are terrific company. You will always be their parent, and you will always need to play that role, but during the teen years you will hopefully find that your teenager can also be your friend (no, I don't mean on Facebook, are you kidding?!).
Check out these interesting studies of adolescent brain development:
- The Teen Brain | Harvard Magazine Sep-Oct 2008
It's a paradoxical time of development. These are people with very sharp brains, but they're not quite sure what to do with them
- Inside The Teenage Brain | FRONTLINE | PBS
FRONTLINE reports on new neuroscience research indicating that teenagers brains are stlll developing, especially in the frontal cortex. They also need more sleep than previously believed