Having parents who are engaged and who participate in the learning process is critical for adolescent development. This might seem counterintuitive as adolescents inevitably push parents away in their strong desire for independence. However, right at the time that this drive for personal autonomy occurs, it is most important for parents and caregivers to remain involved.
During the adolescent period of development, the brain is growing rapidly. New neural pathways are being laid every day and through practice, these connections strengthen. As Dr. Dana Dorfman explains in the following clip, excerpted from our recent webinar, the role of parents is to act as the “guardrails” for the adolescent child.
Parents should set boundaries, provide guidance, and act as a sounding board for their adolescent children. Adolescents’ ability to reason and take multiple perspectives grows tremendously during this time. They are capable of expansive thinking and new ideas such as morality, justice, and equity.
Teens want to explore these new ideas and try them out. One of the best supports an adolescent can have during this time is open dialogue with a parent. Talk to your kids. Ask them questions about issues that are important to them and encourage their new intellectual capacity within the appropriate limits. Make your home a safe space in which new ideas can be explored and new solutions to problems can be generated. This is quite literally exercise for your adolescent’s growing brain and will help to set them up for success.
As with all children, teens are motivated by successful experiences. Their hypersensitive emotional center can cause them to experience success and failure in dramatic fashion. A victory may manifest itself as arrogance, and a perceived failure as hopelessness. Parents can help their children to put things in perspective. Recognizing progress is a great way to accomplish this. Help your child to reflect on the progress he or she has made in school or in extracurricular activities. Teens love hard evidence, so be prepared with report cards, photos, or other data which concretely demonstrates progress.
It’s also important to remind adolescents how far they have yet to go. Diligent study habits, commitment, and hard work will help them continue to make progress in school and in life. Evidence tells us that very successful individuals in a wide range of fields share these habits. Luck and natural talent have very little to do with long term success.
Adolescence is a chaotic and amazing time for both kids and parents. With parents and caregivers acting as the proverbial “guardrails,” adolescents can explore new ideas and experience success in order to reach their goals.