Understanding My Pre-Teen Child – Part 1
Posted on: January 9, 2019. Comments ( 1 )

Author: Mrs. Radhika Mohan, Educational Consultant

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Twelve-year-old Shefali storms out shouting, “You’re ruining my life…” Banging the door behind him, Shashank screams, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you…” These are common complaints parents share with us when they come to school. What causes these outbursts? Such outbursts are triggered by only the changes happening in the pre-teenage brain. We, as adults, and also as parents, need to understand this.

A recent study conducted by the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany, says teenagers go through the same rewiring between the ages of 13 and 17 as they did when they were toddlers. But it becomes difficult for us to handle them second time around, because they’ve grown up in size and are adept at using their sharp tongue. Of course, carrying this impulse in them cannot allow us to handle them as toddlers, though.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming when parents tell us that they seem to be losing their connection with their teen, but this is actually when they need us most. We may need to know what NOT to do in order to salvage our relationship and help them face this stage in their life, less turbulently. Firstly, we should stop exclaiming “What’s wrong with you!!!” albeit genuinely done. However, all too often, it’s a rhetorical outburst, blurted out by parents who are at the end of their patience. Worse still is the message that we think there’s something fundamentally defective about our child, which can never be changed.

Researchers say that the frontal lobes in their brains, which controls impulse and facilitates reasoning, and planning, are the last to be rewired for adulthood. While this rearrangement is going on, decision-making is re-routed via the amygdala, a primal part of the brain, which reacts instantaneously and emotionally to any perceived threat. Neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen says, “Teenagers make much more sense when you understand that the frontal lobes of the brain are the last part to fully develop. The brain just doesn’t know how to regulate itself yet. They’re like Ferraris with weak brakes.”

We may think teenagers never listen to us, anyway, but on the contrary, they’re hypersensitive to our opinions of them. They only pretend not to care because that is their defence mechanism. To confused adolescents, despairing comments by those who are supposed to love them the most, can cut really deep. Such messages get turned as negative self-talk. These voices can be hard to silence once they get hooked to a teen’s malleable brain, just as it is laying down the pathways, which will influence their future mental health.

“We need to understand them as well as understand their ‘growth mindset’. Of course, no negative mindset is ever fixed/stuck; we can all evolve and change”, states Carole Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

We often find ourselves raising our voices when our child becomes as equal match to us in size. This can seem the easiest and even the only option to show teens we mean business. At times like this, our ‘reptile brain’—the basic instinct of fight or flight—takes over, before our higher-order thought process has the chance to modify our actions. We should allow our homes to be a haven—free from the pressures of the outside world—where our kids can relax and recharge…

…continued in the next part

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Comments (1)


    Ginsha says:

    Nicely written . Very interesting and giving good insight

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