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Understanding your teen's behavior

CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd is the published author of "Somewhere along the Beaten Path," a web consultant, freelance writer and artist.

Are teenagers from another planet?

While most of us have heard best-selling author John Gray's theory how men are from Mars and women are from Venus, we beg to ask the question, From what planet are teenagers? Read on to learn more about your teen's behavior.


The science of teen sassiness

But what really makes the teenage brain tick?  According to scientists, one of the important growth spurts of the brain happens right around adolescence.  It isn't until the later stages of development (at about age 25) that the adolescent brain actually matures in the emotional response sector.  While this doesn't excuse teens' sometimes-disruptive behaviors, it does explain why we have often such difficulty communicating with them.


Are teenagers from another planet?It's no surprise to parents that teenagers view the world in a completely different rational and perspective than adults.  Placing extraordinary weight on idiosyncrasies like physical appearance, clothing style and levels of popularity within the adolescent hierarchy at school, they tend to be superficial on the exterior, but are extremely emotionally vulnerable. "As part of the normal drive for independence, a child distances herself from her parents, and in the process becomes more critical of their actions and choices," says Dr Robin Goldstein, author of The Parenting Bible



What makes these otherwise ordinary creatures so complex is that most teenagers focus heavily on what we deem as simple routines like homework, exams and their all-important relationships with pals and sweethearts.  Goldstein also attributes difficult teen behavior to mood swings. "Many changes in the child's life are not experienced on a conscious level or are subtle, and a pre- or early adolescent may be puzzled or upset by her own shifting moods."

How parents can cope

Trying not to reduce the importance teenagers feel with regard to what they view as critical, parents must realize that just as there are diverse cultural and political views, there are also very different views that teenagers have.
Imagine just for a moment how it feels to be a teenager.  It is difficult to backtrack to this point in our lives, and for good reason – we have forgotten how it feels to deal with the surging ranges of emotional highs and lows that most teens experience.  Because teens place a great emphasis on their physical appearance, it's no wonder they stress and fret over acne breakouts, weight issues and whether or not they're in the "in-crowd." Not only this, there are some very dramatic, physiological changes occurring in those teen minds. Suddenly "tweens" are beginning to experience hormonal transformations, and a rush of emotional feelings that can't simply be explained away by well-intended parents. 


Welcome to the twilight zone, because if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, parents can surmise that teenagers are definitely from another emotional planet completely. As an entirely different culture of physical, mental and emotional balancing acts, the best way to communicate with the future leaders of the world is to seriously relate to their level of thinking and common ideologies of the youth movement.  Getting involved in – but not in the way of – adult development is key, say experts.


Think of it this way, says Farley – it's all about positive interaction with your teen. "Your relationship with your children should be based on trust, love and reliability... when somebody says something, you can take it to the bank." Or, in other words, practice what you preach. 


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