Top Tips for Teens
I work with a lot of teenage clients, they’re a part of my hypnotherapy practice that I really enjoy. Without exception, they are funny, interesting, interactive and talented.
Yet I know that’s not always how they behave!
Their parents and teachers may find them maddening, irrational, rude, lazy and hard to get conversation out of.
I experienced this with my own three, too, so I know its normal.
Can we navigate these teenage years more calmly, without everyone arguing?
I think understanding what’s happening for teenagers helps us as parents moderate our expectations – it certainly helped me when I learned about the ‘Brain Facts’ I shared in my earlier blog.
I’m in no way perfect as a parent but here are some things I learned on the way to keeping my three alive, well and functioning!
Top Teen Tip 1
Try new things
Encourage them to try different sports and activities, without necessarily expecting them to stick at it for too long – teenage tastes change quickly and boredom sets in quicker than with adults!
They may look like adults, but their brains really aren’t quite there yet – so bear in mind the monumental changes going on in their heads, especially in a world which is far from the one our brains were evolved to live in many thousands of years ago.
The whole point of these changes is to prepare our young adults for moving out into the world on their own, learning to become independent. Allowing teens to trial-run risky behaviour as part of high octane, dopamine- delivering sports or novel physical activities satisfies their need for stimulation and lets them practice assessing risk and developing ways to manage it, safely.
Top Teen Tip 2
Find an emotional outlet
Finding ways to express all their different, intense emotions, and release frustration or stress will help teenagers learn how to regulate and control them.
Due to their ever changing brain environment, teenagers experience much more deeply felt emotions and are less able to control them.
Sport, dance, singing, or writing are good ways to be safely emotional in public, and don’t always require the words that many teens haven’t yet learned to describe their feelings.
Stress of all sorts is harder to cope with when your brain is partially unplugged and may, in time if it’s not relieved, lead to mental health challenges becoming more apparent. Anything that helps your teen manage their emotions and perceived stress is helpful.
Top Teen Tip 3
Talk through decisions with them
Teenagers face lots of big choices at what can be a chaotic time in their life. Talking things through with them and allowing them to come up with their own options, sort through different possible outcomes, and think both long and short term, strengthens their ability to apply this kind of reasoning on their own.
Remember, adults have learned to make decisions by learning through experience what works best. And as humans we prefer the decisions that we make ourselves rather than those imposed on us!
There’s a reason for that long-held cliche of teenage rebellion, so diffuse it by allowing them to make a choice where possible.
Top Teen Tip 4
Set routines and boundaries for your teenager
This sounds boringly parent’y, but it means that teens then know what is expected of them, taking some of the guesswork out of interpreting what
Mum and Dad actually mean when they say things.
While it’s nice to keep an eye on them, teenagers are determined to find where your limits are so remember to update your own assessments of what they’re capable of coping with, and what you will or won’t allow them to do – if you want them to be young adults, allow them to do young adult things!
Top Teen Tip 5
Just like during toilet training when they were smaller, frequent praise when they do well reinforces the behaviour we’re trying to encourage in teenagers.
From a brain point of view, this praise releases chemical messengers in the brain that speed up how quickly and how well that response becomes hardwired, and more importantly, kept for good.
They might shrug it off in disgust, but teenagers still enjoy and benefit from being told what they’ve been brilliant at, so make use of their advanced tech skills to reprogram the car clock, import your cloud contacts, or set up the new router – it’s developing their problem-solving skills, too.
Top Teen Tip 6
Be a role model
Just as in the toddler years, modelling the kind of behaviour yourself that you want to see from them activates the learning ability teenagers are blessed with, influencing them in a positive way, whether they admit it or not at the time!
For example, you might try talking through with them things that you have found a challenge and ask how they might respond, or focus on reacting calmly to potential conflicts, or even include them in doing household chores (with a reward at the end!)
Top Teen Tip 7
Let them sleep
Just as when they were toddlers, sleep is important, perhaps even more now than it was then.
Like the highways agency with their motorway repairs, much of the brain remodelling of the teenage years happens overnight, so getting 8-10 hours sleep is a good goal.
It’s also true that the shift in the timing of their body clock as they hit teenage years means that frankly, getting up in the morning for school is practically the middle of the night for them!
Even with the current focus on home schooling, this teenaged timescale clash is hard to get around other than allowing them a power nap when they finish school, or grant them a big lie in at the weekend.
I promise they aren’t just being lazy; building brains is tiring.
Top Teen Tip 8
Talk to them
It’s important to know what’s going on for them, to continue talking to them about what they like, what matters to them and what’s happening in their lives, just like when they were little.
(I recommend long car journeys where they can’t escape and don’t have to make constant eye contact for this!)
The things that upset them now might be different to the preschool years, but teens are acutely sensitive to the opinion of their peers and friendship or relationship dramas can have a huge impact.
It’s interesting to note that while their friends might be their first port of call for emotional support, teens often lack the empathy and insight to notice poor coping skills or signs of mental ill-health in each other, so some adult oversight is crucial.
Top Teen Tip 9
Learn from them
Remember what it was like for you as a teenager?
Except you can’t really.
Research shows that our memories and recollections of our own teenage years are shockingly inaccurate!
Even if we could remember, that was way back then and they are teens now, growing up in a very different set of circumstances. Things are different for them than it was for you.
Take this into consideration, and find out about the things that are hard for teenagers now – what are their concerns, or worries? what do they find hard?
Equally, find out what new interests, ideas and ways of thinking they have – teenagers often have a fresh perspective on life that can be really enlightening and informative if we allow ourselves to let go of the “I’m the adult; I know best” mindset.
Top Teen Tip 10
Pick your battles
This was such a hard one for me!
Does it really matter if their bedroom is less tidy than you would like, provided that they respect the tidiness of the rest of the house?
Does it matter if they drown everything in ketchup as long as they eat your nutritious meal?
Does it matter if they walk round with their hood up indoors, as long as they join in with the conversation with Nan on FaceTime?
Letting go of some of the smaller potential points of conflict means that they will take you more seriously when there are bigger things that need dealing with. It also takes some of the stress out of day to day family life, and your parental stress levels become a bit more bearable.
Top Teen Tip 11
Monitor screen time
This has been a contentious issue for a while now, but research has shown that it’s not necessary to completely demonise screen time – it’s much more relevant to look at how our teens use their devices, rather than focus on the amount of time itself.
The limitless stimulation provided by constantly updated continually scrollable social media streams is like catnip to teenagers, endlessly entertaining; so it’s no wonder their brains are drawn to it!
While it’s true that excessive time spent on electronic devices has been shown to be detrimental to teenagers’ mental health, breaking down the data shows that it’s what they spend time looking at that is more problematic.
Constant comparison with impossible standards of photoshopped and enhanced ‘beauty’ has a negative effect on the impressionable teenage brain in both sexes, and won’t foster positive self image. Sadly, online bullying exists, and looking for validation from their posts opens them up to exposure to this new menace.
But if what they’re engaging with is positive, uplifting and informative, it can be a genuinely useful way for them to interact with role models, influencers and popular culture, as well as get social and emotional support – particularly crucial in the current climate where they are unable to see their friends.
Help your child curate an online social media world that reflects a balanced view of life offline, and encourage them to see it as an additional way to interact with others instead of the main way. Encouraging them to limit their time on it (in general, but particularly close to bedtime) and provide options to spend time with family and friends will also help them switch off and spend more time in the 3D world.
Top Teen Tip 12
Outsource the support
It can be really difficult to remain objective and compassionate to your teenager when the relationship between you both can be fraught with strong emotions. This is when it might be useful to get some professional therapy for your child.
As a solution focused hypnotherapist, I focus on explaining to my junior clients what’s going on inside their heads so that they develop a little more insight. Unlike more traditional talk therapies, solution focused hypnotherapy does just that – focus on finding solutions to the current problems they are facing and moving forwards, rather than talking around the problem itself, which is something teens may struggle with.
By its focus on the present positives, noticing where things are going well, and visualising a positive future, hypnotherapy works to strengthen the ability to engage the prefrontal cortex. It lowers the stress response and helps to ‘recalibrate’ their emotional barometer. .
While I wouldn’t promise sessions with me could make your teen into an adult quicker, they will boost their self control, their self belief and allow them to test drive a future in which they are more positive, more confident and more in control of their own brain.
Top Teen Tip 13
Ask for help and support
While this series has all been about how hard things are for teens, we know it’s hard for parents too!
Finding sources of support for yourself as a parent will help you to deal with this potentially turbulent time more comfortably That support may be simply chatting to parents going through the same stage, or something more formal like joining a support group online, or even considering getting some help from a professional for yourself in order to deal with any stress or other issues you have going on.
Understanding what goes on in our heads is a particularly important part of how I work with clients and enables them all, junior or senior, to cope better with whatever life throws our way.
About the Author: Claire Noyelle practices online and from her tranquil garden therapy room at her home in Bearsted, Maidstone East, in the heart of the garden county of Kent. Claire is a member of the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists, National Council for Hypnotherapy and the Complimentary and Natural Healthcare Council and a member of both the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
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