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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain – Dr. Sara’s Book Club #7

Posted on 11 January 2014

Being a parent is challenging even at the best of times, and as all parents of teenagers know, the adolescent years can be especially tricky to navigate.

Parents, I know you’ve all had moments that leave you frustrated and a bit confused, wondering, “Why do teens act this way?” That is the right question to ask, as truly harmonious relationships come from seeking a genuine understanding of one another. However, even with the wealth of discussion out there on why teens behave the way they do, so many parents end up misinformed. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain Dr. Sara’s Book Club #7Fortunately, with the release of Dr. Daniel Siegel’s new book, “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,” parents need look no further in order to shed some light on what is really at work in the growing minds of their teenagers. A celebrated neuropsychiatrist and best-selling author, Siegel synthesizes pertinent new research into an accessible, engaging exploration of adolescent brain development and how it affects behavior. And here’s the best part: Gaining a working understanding of this information ultimately serves to foster compassion and mutual respect between parents and their teens.

Common Myths About Adolescence, Explained

One aspect of Dr. Siegel’s work that I find very valuable is his discussion of some of the popular myths of adolescence. By calling attention to false beliefs and guiding readers toward the truth, he changes the way parents view their teens. Here are some choice examples: Myth: Teenagers just have raging hormones! This has to be why they act so “crazy” sometimes. Fact: It is true that hormones do increase during this period. But, contrary to popular belief, this is not what actually determines the behavioral shifts of adolescence. Instead, changes in brain development are the primary reason for the new thoughts and attitudes you see in your teen. Myth: It’s simple – teens are immature and just need to “grow up.” Fact: Adolescence isn’t merely about survival. Teens can actually thrive because of this important period of their lives. There is “work” in adolescence – testing boundaries, experiencing new thoughts, discovering sudden passion to explore the new and exciting. It’s important for teens to embrace these things rather than resist them. This way, they will develop core character traits that strengthen their ability to create lives of adventure and purpose. Myth: Growing up is all about moving from dependence on adults to complete independence from them. Fact: Sure, there is a natural and necessary pushing away from the adults who raised us, but the teen-adult relationship still holds benefits. Remember that the healthy transition to adulthood is toward interdependence, not complete “do-it-yourself” independence. Still, it is OK for the nature of the parental bond to change as friends become more important during this period. Teens are simply exploring new types of interdependent connections that can carry them forward into a successful adulthood. Myth: It’s my responsibility as a parent to help my children solve all their conflicts. There are lots of challenges and roadblocks during the teen years. I need to watch out for them and make sure that they make the right choices. Fact: I know it’s natural to want to help the people we love “fix” all their problems. What adolescents need most of all, though, is to feel truly connected with us. This means showing them that we are there to listen and help sort through their problems versus automatically stepping in and solving them. It’s the difference between parenting an emerging adult and parenting a young child. Remember that, while teens need support, they also want to be treated like equals, just like the rest of us.

Better Understanding Leads to Thriving Growth

I think we can all agree that successfully navigating adolescence goes beyond simply keeping the peace. It is important to understand what is going on behind the scenes in the minds of our young adults so that we can encourage their growth in the most positive way. “Brainstorm” is an excellent resource for really getting to know your teen better, a process that leads to greater awareness, empathy and openness in the family. We want our children to capitalize on the opportunity of the teenage years –the rapid brain development that leaves them poised to explore their creativity, independent thought and purpose. Dr. Siegel helps parents learn how to approach this stage in a positive, informed and open manner, so that teens can do just that. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Laura Kastner states, “A visionary and a guide, Siegel knows that if we treat teenagers with the respect and understanding they deserve, they are more likely to live up to their greatest capacities.” With that, I invite you to delve into this book, which will help both you and your child experience the rewards of the teenage years. Go here to learn more and order your copy today.

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