Understanding the teenage frame of mind
Decisions and opinions change as kids grow into teens. Risk takes on a new importance. New experiences peek interest. Confidence and fitting in matter. As adults we may look back on our own teen years with laughter, embarrassment, and a few sighs. Ironically, despite our own mistakes, some adults still find it hard to understand why teens do what they do. Every once in a while, it’s good to step back and remember what teens are sorting through: emotions, curiosity, and a little fear. It can be tough to rationalize. Keep these thoughts in mind when trying to understand and guide your teen to good choices.
The pressure to fit in or, more importantly, not “stand out” can influence momentary decisions. People start to develop their individual self in the teen years. Taste in clothing changes, friendships transition, and behaviors are all over the board. Teenagers have started to think for themselves and voice opinions. Peer pressure can drive decisions and actions. Teens make choices and behave a certain way to fit in: to be a part of the crowd, to be included, to feel ‘normal’ or ‘accepted’.
Kids and teens alike have a natural tendency to be curious. All ages tend to push the limits to get a read on what is allowed and where the line is drawn for a solid ‘no’. Teens today are no different than in generations past. They think for today only. Decisions are made based on instant gratification and short-term consequences. Long-term effects are just not top of mind.
While some teens are confident in their choices, others struggle to find their identity. Some behaviors are meant to draw attention and be noticed. Positive acknowledgement can be found with good grades, great athletic ability, or special talents. Negative acts such as drinking, taking drugs, smoking, or poor behavior also gains attention. The same outcome is achieved through very different means.
What can you do?
Understand. Acknowledge the stress peer pressure can cause. Remember that teens will think about short-term satisfaction versus long-term consequences. Don’t judge them but rather try to help your teen rationalize and process their decisions.
Listen. Listening is our greatest strength and can also be our biggest weakness. Adults have learned through experience. We want our kids to learn from our experiences. But the reality is, they need to learn on their own. Listen to them when they want to talk. Listen to them when they are silent. Pay attention to their actions.
Talk. Open dialogue teaches everyone. Adults learn about their kids’ fears and thoughts. Teens hear their parent’s opinions. Whether or not you’re on the same page doesn’t always matter. What matters is the conversation. Keep it calm, mature, and relevant to the topic at hand. Whether you discuss alcohol, smoking, or sex, keep your cool.
Learn. Rely on resources around you: friends, teachers, coaches, doctors, community, books, and programming. Develop a network of trusted people to discuss parent education and teen topics such as underage drinking. Allow these resources to guide good choices in your home. We’ve all been there; try to remember what it is like to a teen