TEENAGE BRAINS

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I’ve been out all day. I walk in the door and see my teenage son reclined on the sofa with his laptop in front of him and the TV on. He’s also texting. He looks up and says “make us a cup of tea will you?”

It’s all very well being asked to love and communicate with teenagers but they’re so bloody irritating sometimes! Remembering what I was like helps sometimes. The short film “Emmi” which Andy and myself have just finished (www.fernyfilms.co.uk/emmi) explores the tensions. It’s a dark drama, based on a newspaper story I read over 20 years ago, flavoured by experiences since and spiked by my own past teenage struggles..

Neuroscience tells us that teenage brains are different to adult brains. They’re not good at being able to look ahead, see the consequences of their actions and choose NOT to do the stupid thing. Emotion triumphs over reason and late-developing frontal lobes lead to the mood swings, impulsiveness and lack of judgement. The very last thing teenager develop is ‘empathy.’ Telling a teenager to ‘stop being selfish’ is like telling a lion to go vegetarian…

One way we can help our teenagers is learn more. You might enjoy this short Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_blakemore_the_mysterious_workings_of_the_adolescent_brain#t-56269

Me – I like stories – Once, long ago the Sun and the Wind were arguing about who was the most powerful. As they were arguing the Wind saw someone walking along a deserted strip of beach with a coat on and said “I bet you I can get that person to take their coat off quicker than you can”. The Sun accepted the challenge. The Wind had the first turn and began to blow and blow. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the person clutched their coat around them. Finally the Sun asked for a turn. The Sun chose to glow very gently. The person visibly relaxed. After only a few paces they began to undo the buttons on the coat. Within 5 minutes the coat was off.

One summers day, one of my teenage offspring came downstairs after a party, hoodie covering his face and slouched into the kitchen. He didn’t talk, didn’t eat, just sat. It felt like the room had filled with 100 invisible pissed off versions of him. I wanted to ‘blow’ hard – nag, cajole, complain. That was my habit. Instead I carried on clearing and let him sit there. I’d been growing a sunflower seed and I asked him where I should plant it out. There was a short silence and then he came over to me and let me hug him. After that a whole story unravelled.

    If you’re a parent, remember: Your teenager needs you 🙂


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