Why Tweens and Teens are amazing
The adolescent years have a bad reputation for turning our sweet little children into hormonally-driven, impulsive, lazy, moody teens, but according to new research the tween and teen years are really a time we can be excited about. By Kelly Eden.
Adolescence is a really important period of our children’s lives: they are growing in their independence, creativity, ability to think, and sense of identity. It ranges from puberty (around age 12) until our kids get their adult brain (somewhere from their late teens to early 30s).
Dr Daniel Siegel, author of Brainstorm: The power and purpose of the teenage brain, is one advocate for celebrating the teenage years more. He says that the idea of raging hormones causing teen behaviour is really outdated. We now know a lot more about brain development.
The brain rewires itself at an incredibly rapid pace during the teen years. As parents, it’s important that we try to understand the remodelling the brain is doing in these years. Then we can enjoy the benefits (such as creativity) and, at the same time, better help our teens reduce the risks that come along with these changes (like poor decision-making skills).
So, what are some of the things that make tweens and teens so amazing?
During the teen years creativity and innovation are at a high, according to Siegel. Because of the remodelling happening in their brains, teens are not limited in their thinking as much as adults are. This age group, unlike younger children, are also able to think in more abstract ways.
This combination of creativity and abstract thinking leads to
some very original ideas.
As parents we can encourage our tweens and teens to use their creativity, think outside the box, and develop their ideas. Not all of them will be practical of course, but keep encouraging them to explore ideas and they might come up with something surprising.
Wired to learn
During the adolescent years, our children’s developing brains become incredibly active in the area that seeks reward.
Because of this, studies have found, teens are far more wired to learn from experience than adults are.
Neuroscientist Daphna Shomany, of Columbia University, in her research found that teenagers were not only quicker learners than adults but they were also better at remembering small details.
Adolescent brains have a remarkable ability to learn and change which makes these years a potential opportunity for incredible growth for our kids.
Sensitivity to emotions
Tween and teen brains are set up to be far more sensitive to their own and others’ feelings in these years. Our children are also developing a sense of their own identity at this time (which doesn’t become very stable until early adulthood, so don’t worry if they try on a few different identities!).
Tweens and teens also become very aware of moral ideas and issues at this age. This is a chance for us as parents to really enjoy exploring these ideas with our children. We can listen to them, gently challenge their thinking, and help them develop empathy for others and their ideas.
We often think of the typical boundary pushing and risk-taking behaviours that comes with teen years as a bad thing. According to Siegel though, our teens’ strong emotions, push for independence, and willingness to take risks are actually necessary. Risk-taking and independence can lead to meeting new people, trying new sports or activities, and discovering things they are passionate about.
If developed well, these aspects are incredibly important for our children to become independent from us. They lead to great adult lives, full of adventure and purpose.