Is there another way to do the tweens and teen years?

So much is written and discussed about the overwhelming, confusing, daunting, frustrating and disempowering role of parenting tweens and teens.  
SO much reference is made to the trickiness of doing this in these current times.  
So much fear and anxiety pervades our bodies, minds, our newstreams, our Facebook walls and our table conversations.
We get this.  
We see it and experience it too.  

Yet we are deeply committed at Contemporary Parenting to explore another way.  A way in which we can bring up our tweens and teens with connection, love, joy and ease.  OK, perhaps less ease as lets face it, they are subject to changing architecture of their brains and their hormonal fluxes, yet we still believe there can be a high degree of ease.  

We’ve drilled down to our top 3 tips to achieve this.

  1. Realistic and developmentally appropriate expectations
  2. Cultivate healthy brains by creating an environment of safe connection
  3. Hold firm boundaries - lovingly!

 Let’s take a deeper dive at what that looks like.

1. Expectations must be realistic and aligned to their development

Our teens brains are changing.  This is not something they have in their control so a few things are helpful to remember.  

Their propensity for risk taking behaviour is higher, it just is.  So we often need to be their frontal lobes (aka thinking brains) for them and bring in executive functions and appraisals without blaming or shaming them for their choices that align with this heightened risk-seeking-behaviour.

Their frontal lobes are a work in progress. Our job is to remember this and aid their healthy development rather than punish teens for not having fully functioning frontal lobes yet.  This is best done through

  • helping them plan well,
  • keeping their brains calm through good connection and
  • creating a supportive environment so the brain can get on with its (seemingly tediously slow) development.  

In addition they are hard wired to to connect more with peers than their family. This is good as if it didn’t happen they may be living with us at 48 years old still.  So knowing this we can support their engagement and connection with their friends in a healthy way without feeling and acting from a place of confusion and rejection. They would rather go for a sleep over or to a party than their 6 year old nephews laser tag party or their granny’s tea, fact. Communication and understanding can really facilitate these kinds of conversations to everyones benefit. 

2. Connection is our gateway to healthy brain development.  

Connection is everything.  

Yes omega’s and reading are great. Yet an environment that allows tweens and teens to feel safe, supported, seen and soothed is the ultimate ground for healthy brain development.

And based on what we have discussed above, we really want good and solid development of their brains!  

If our children feel unsafe, unsupported, unseen and lack soothing then their brains are pulled away from this critical development time and placed into survival mode.  This is a stress state, and one that many kids (and adults) live in permanently and it is counter productive to their healthy development.

Connecting relationships offer the most fertile ground and support for our children having an integrated brains which allows them to avoid many of the unpleasant behaviours associated with their age group. 

Loving & firm boundaries

Boundaries need to shift in an age appropriate way, yet regardless, the key is to implement them firmly and lovingly.  
Like this;

  1. I love you darling, and no 
  2. I hear how much you want this and no 
  3. I notice a tendency to try please you, and no
  4. I appreciate what you are saying, and no.
      • you may not go to the party 
      • use your device during the week 
      • watch TV now 
      • eat any more sweets 
      • have that new outfit 
      • download that app 
      • borrow any money….”  

Creating connection doesn’t mean we never disappoint our children. We can create connection by keeping them safely within boundaries and doing so in a way that doesn’t shame or blame them.  That doesn’t involve threats or bribes.  It rather holds a strong, loving, unmovable container in which they know where they stand.  They may not like the boundary in the moment but they will appreciate it and it will grow connection in the long term.  Do not be afraid of your tweens or teens strong emotions and military opposition. They are meant to come up against us, they are testing and getting to know themselves and us in this process. 

Hold strong.  Hold tight.  Love well.

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