MUSKOKA - Parenting expert Alyson Schafer offered hope to about 60 parents of teenagers at the sportsplex in Bracebridge last week.
Connect with your teenager, says expert.
TEEN ADVOCATE. Parenting expert Alyson Schafer spoke on the joys and fears of the teen years at the Bracebridge Sportsplex on Thursday, Sept. 27. (Photo by Pamela Steel)
In her lecture on the joys and fears of the teen years, she delivered a message of understanding and connection when it comes to teens. She said the four Cs are the key to functional teens: they need to feel connected, capable, courageous and that they count.
Teens, she said, are discriminated against in our culture. Everywhere from school to home to the community, adults expect the worst from them.
“We assume kids can’t be trusted … we degrade them and give them no rights,” said the behavioural psychologist. “If we want to change teenagers, we have to change societies. We have to stop maligning them.”
She explained that the concept of teens having to undergo a period of storm and stress where they rail against their parents is outdated in psychology circles. It’s no longer about “cutting the apron strings,” but about finding ways to connect with teens and she encouraged parents to make use of technology to do so. Texting was provided as an example of a way to connect with teens that works on their terms.
Schafer was pro-technology throughout the talk, saying that a friendship online is as real as face to face and advising parents against taking away a teen’s computer as a method of discipline.
Teen behaviour can be baffling to adults because the teen brain is very different from the adult brain; they are continuing to form their cerebral cortex, used for higher reasoning, until the age of 25. But there are positives to this, she said.
“The teen brain does what it needs to do to make us a fascinating species,” she said, adding that to want to leave a secure nest they are hardwired to seek out new things and take risks.
“Kids are not miscalculating risk; they see the risk and do it anyway, particularly if their peers are around. The reward is worth the risk-taking. Peers are so important; they’re the future for teens so it makes sense to want to be with them.”
But she said kids still need a lot of adults in their lives.
“We need to push ourselves back into our kids’ lives … we all have a need to connect and belong; if they can’t find it in positive places like family, school and community, they will look elsewhere.”
The ideal situation is for teens to see their parents as sage council rather than authority, she said.
“You throw out influence when the relationship gets conflictual (sic). Don’t censor — advise.”
She said teens need to make mistakes and parents can be their coach and support them, rather than be a cynic or a critic.
“The secret to success is failure … let them make mistakes.”
She said it takes 10,000 hours to learn mastery of a skill and there will be lots of mistakes in that 10,000 hours. Teens need resilience to keep going.
“Give them the courage to be imperfect,” she said.
At the close of the lecture, audience members asked a variety of questions about issues like teen depression, coping with learning disabilities and strategies to help raise boys who will be respectful to women.
The lecture was sponsored by Muskoka Family Focus. For more information visit alysonschafer.com.