Dr. Daniel Siegel is an international Parenting expert and bestselling author of Parenting from the Inside Out. His new book BRAINSTORM: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
Myth: Raging hormones are to blame for teenagers “going mad” or “losing their minds.”
Fact: Hormones do increase during this period, but it is not the hormones that determine what goes on in adolescence.
We now know that what adolescents experience is primarily the result of changes in the development of the brain.
Myth: Adolescence is simply a time of immaturity and teens just need to “grow up.”
Fact: To the contrary, adolescents don’t just need to survive adolescence; they can thrive because of this important period of their lives.
The “work” of adolescence – the testing of boundaries, the passion to explore what is new and exciting – can lay the stage for the development of core character traits that will enable adolescents to go on to lead great lives of adventure and purpose.
Myth: Growing up during adolescence is all about moving from dependence on adults to complete independence from them.
Fact: While there is a natural and necessary pushing away from the adults who raised us, adolescents still benefit from relationships with adults.
The healthy move to adulthood is to interdependence, not complete “do-it-yourself” independence.
The nature of the bond adolescents have with their parents as attachment figures changes, and friends become more important during this period.
Myth: It’s my responsibility as a parent to help my child solve any conflicts that emerge as they navigate the often rocky road that is adolescence.
Fact: So often, we want to help the people we love “fix” all their problems. What adolescents need most of all, however, is to feel connected with us, to know that we are still there to listen and help them sort through their problems versus automatically stepping in and solving them as we might have done when they were very young.
Myth: The most dramatic brain development occurs during the “teenage” years—once my child is off to college things should settle down.
Fact: The important “work” of adolescence in terms of brain development actually begins at age twelve and extends into ones’ twenties (twenty-four to be exact).
Thus, it’s important as a parent to continue to patiently support and help guide your young adult child’s ever-evolving sense of self—even as you respect their newfound independence.
Myth: Things are so different today than when I was growing up—there isn’t really much of a relationship between my experiences in adolescence and those of my child.
Fact: Attachment research reveals that our experiences with our own parents growing up create a vital starting place from whence we can learn important lessons.
Digging deep into the landscape of your own childhood can yield important benefits in terms of showing you how to maintain close bonds with your children throughout their adolescence and on into adulthood.