As school starts again, and my daughters return to school, I am reminded of the struggles adolescents face. The stress of friendships, academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, and family pressures can have a profound impact on the brain — and all at a time when tremendous physical and psychological development is occurring.
Typically, parents and teachers are aware of the effects of maturation from childhood to teenager; however we sometimes miss out on opportunities to be present with our children/students to engage with and support such growth.
In hectic daily life, I sometimes find it hard to slow down and recognize my daughters are more than just daughters or students. As adolescents, my daughters are becoming more complex and beginning to exercise their voice and ability to make decisions.
As well-respected development psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner once said, “Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” And while I am crazy about my children, there are a few things I — and all parents and teachers — can do to be even more supportive during their adolescent years:
1. Take time to talk every day if at all possible. Ask an open ended-question and make room for dialogue. In our screen-filled world, it is important to engage in face-to-face real time conversation. My twin girls and I have breakfast every morning when I am in town and the family has dinner together as often as we can. I’ll admit dialogue isn’t always sparkling but it is always good to check in.
2. Recognize them as multidimensional. Sure, teenagers may spend most of their day in the classroom and there is also a lot of growth occurring as a budding musician or artist or young employee. Begin to recognize and support various identities as they present themselves. With my twins I have found it especially important that they are given space to find their separate identities.
3. Integrate mindfulness at home/in the classroom. Taking time to listen to a five-minute meditation can help ground adolescents so they are more focused on the task at hand rather than on a stress that is miles or hours away.
Adolescence is a unique time in our children’s development. As parents and teachers there are steps we can take to have a positive impact during what is widely seen as a challenging stage of life.
This is the first of a three part blog series brought to you by Roger Sherman, Executive Director of the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund.
The Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, is also the state affiliate of Prevent Child Abuse America, and under Roger’s leadership, the Trust has greatly expanded its efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, introduced new ways of preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome, and engaged educators and others around trauma informed care and strengthening families.