If you have an adolescent, you have likely noticed emotional changes in your child that make you wonder what has happened to them. These changes are mostly due to rapid brain development that happens during the adolescent years. The brain is preparing them to think like a young adult and not like a child.
As your adolescent is experiencing these powerful emotional changes, you might feel that you don’t know how to connect with them. The answer is simple. Talk to them about what is going on in their head. Let them know that the changes they are experiencing are normal and preparing them for a great future.
I would like to help you get a conversation going by offering some topics for you to use. It is best to be brief and non-threatening during these conversations. Be casual and supportive. Even if your adolescent does not say a word, your interest in what they are thinking and feeling will mean a lot to them.
This conversation starter is about a topic that is often uncomfortable for most parents and for the kids as well. A big change that is happening in your child’s brain is the awakening of sexual pleasure centers. It is a good idea to talk about one tiny aspect of sexuality so both of you don’t get overwhelmed. This conversation is just the start of what could be many small conversations in the future.
Brain change – Sexual Awareness
Background: Although you and your adolescent may have talked about sexual topics in the past, the sexual pleasure centers in the brain are truly becoming awakened during these years. Now they wrestle with sexual thoughts and feelings and need someone they trust, like you, to help them sort out what is normal and healthy and what is not. This is your chance to be the resource they can trust.
Casual conversation topic: Have you noticed that you think about sexual stuff more now than you did when you were younger? This is normal. Your brain is changing and these new thoughts come with the brain changes.
Here are two other brief conversation topics that I have offered in previous blogs. They are certainly less difficult to start than the sexual awareness one I just gave you, but not a substitute!
Brain Change – Separation from Family
Background: Growing up, children typically look forward to spending time with their family. Most of their social experiences are with a family member. But as they mature into adolescence, they desire to be with friends more than with family. This is a normal part of maturing because soon they will live on their own and their brain is getting them, and their family, ready for that separation.
Casual conversation starter: I’ve noticed that you want a lot more time with friends than you did in the past. I know this is normal for kids your age. Let’s talk about a way to make it happen and still keep all of us close and a part of each other’s life.
Brain Change – Issues in relationships
Background: As children, you move through friendships fairly easily and although you might get your feelings hurt from time to time, a young child can usually move quickly past their hurt. This is very different for an adolescent. Their feelings are tender and it matters a great deal to them how others view them. The emotion just seems to be deeper and last longer when they get hurt by a friend during these important transitional years.
Casual conversation starter: Have you noticed that your friends seem to be upset more easily when they get their feelings hurt? I wonder if they realize this is normal because their brain is changing so much right now?
Remember, these are probably going to be very brief talks. Sprinkle them into casual time with your adolescent over the next few months.