By Brenda Badger & Sheila Nesbitt
The recent suspensions of Maple Grove High School Hockey Team players is another reminder of how teens are prone to making mistakes and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. If you have parented teens, you probably had times when you have asked your teen, “What were you thinking?” Your teen may have responded in a confused way, “I don’t know.”
The reality is teens are not always good at thinking things through or planning because the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for decision making and judgment, has not yet fully developed. In fact, that part of the brain is not fully developed until one reaches the mid-twenties. Also, for teens, the part of the brain that controls emotions is in overdrive and has a greater influence on behavior.
A former colleague once said, “We are all just a weekend away from it being our child.” It is so true that very few teens get through adolescence without making some mistakes. Certainly some mistakes are more significant than others. However, when teens make mistakes it should also be a reminder to parents that teens still need parental guidance and involvement in their lives.
Parents can help teens plan for how to deal with situations that may lead to undesirable consequences. Here are a few parenting tips:
• Find time for conversations with your teen. Be open to having conversations when your teen is willing to talk — sometimes it may not be the most ideal time for you as a parent.
• Know your teen’s plans — who they are with and where they are at.
• If you teen is going to be at a friend’s house, check that a parent will be present.
• Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends.
• Help your teen create a plan of how to get out of an uncomfortable situation. You may create a code word or phrase that means, “Come get me now.”
• If a teen’s actions result in intense emotions, such as anger, allow a cooling off period before trying to discuss the matter.
• Reduce access teens have to alcohol or medicines. If you keep alcohol or medicine in your home, keep it secure and closely monitored. Teen alcohol and drug use greatly increases the odds of poor decision making and negative consequences.
• Discuss in advance what consequences would occur for certain inappropriate behaviors and be sure you can stick to the consequences. Example: Deny driving privileges, cell phone use, etc.
• Role model healthy behavior. Teens may seem like they are not paying attention, but they are.
• Find time to take care of yourself. Parenting teens is exhausting and requires vigilance. You’ll do a better job of parenting if you also take care of yourself.
Partnership for Change is a community coalition working to reduce youth drug and alcohol use within northwest Hennepin communities. Feel free to contact us at [email protected] or [email protected] or 763-581-3762.
Brenda Badger & Sheila Nesbitt
Partnership for Change Coordinators/North Memorial