Mom and Jeremy in a typical parent teen standoff. Each with arms crossed and sneering at each other. Dad looking on.
Mom: Yelling: ALL I SAID WAS "HAVE A NICE DAY"!
Jeremy: Yelling back: YOU'RE ALWAYS TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!
Dad: I think I hear a glass of wine calling my name.
Are there some days you feel like you and your teen speak different languages? You say something simple and maybe even nice to your teen (at least you think it's nice) but the response you get is completely incomprehensible. Let me explain how that might happen.
The first disconnect is that adults live in a thinking brain, and teens live in a feeling brain. And I mean that literally. Brain research has shown that when teens and adults are shown the exact same photo of a human face expressing an emotion, their brains respond in very different ways. An adult brain uses the frontal cortex (the thinking brain) to interpret the emotion, and the the teen brain uses the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) to interpret emotion. This is a set-up for constant miscommunication between teens and parents. Teens literally see things in the human face that adults don't see, and hear things in human voices that adults don't hear. It's kind of like dogs that hear the high pitch sounds that no human can hear. Dogs...teens..
I am sure you have had the experience of saying something to your teen in a neutral voice and with a neutral expression. It may be something very inconsequential. But the reaction you get from your teen is crazy! Maybe something like "are you mad at me? They have heard something in your voice or saw something in your face that no one else apparently can see or hear...just like the dog.
A compounding problem is that teens carry every teeny tiny emotional experience that has happened to them over the course of their day in that amygdala of theirs. Perhaps they posted something on instagram and they didn't get enough likes or maybe they said something embarrassing in class and their fellow students laughed at them. Park it! Maybe they wore the wrong outfit, or did something stupid at a partyl and felt like everyone was judging them. Park it! Maybe they saw their crush talk to another boy/girl and feel dejected. A thousand things may have happened that day, or in the morning between when they woke up and you pass each other in the kitchen before school or out with friends. Basically their parking lot of a brain is always full. You know how frustrated you get when there is no place to park. Times that by a hundred, and that is your teen.
So when you get a response to a simple question or comment that seems crazy and completely incomprehensible, assume that their parking lot is full. Probably best to just walk away with a let's talk later. This is one of those times that it just isn't about you.
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Joani’s Top Ten Parenting Tips
The secret to parenting is to keep it simple. Learn 10 simple, concrete practical tips useful in those daily moments of stress as a parent when you wish you had the "right thing to do and the right thing to say!
Audience: All ages
Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version
· Understand teen stressors and anxieties
· Learn how the brain affects your teen’s behavior. It’s the battle of the thinking brain VS the feeling brain.
- Learn Effective strategies for arguing-The Four Ways Of Fighting.
- Develop effective strategies for keeping your teen safe as they explore the new world of teen life.
- Learn how to teen-proof your home and cell-proof your teen
Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do?
· Understand how the “emotional brain” of a child gets “turned on” by social networking.
- Understand how the “Imaginary Audience” influences your child’s performing on social media.
- Learn which apps are safe and unsafe
- Learn strategies to monitor and set limits around phone and internet use
- Learn how your own behavior with phones and computers can positively and negatively influence your teen.
- Understand the addiction of gaming
Audience: parents of 4thgraders through High school
Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol?
- Identify your teen’s personality style and risk-factors with drugs and alcohol
- Identify your parenting style and how it influences your teen’s drug and alcohol use
- Learn effective strategies and scripts to keep your teen safe
- Understand the emotional journey of your college bound high school student
- Understand the emotional journey of a parent of college bound high school student
- Learn strategies for making this process successful and positive
With over 40 years of experience working with families, Joani's approach, using humor, storytelling and easy to use tools make the job of parenting just a little bit easier.
Joani Geltman MSW 781-910-1770 joanigeltman.com