Teenagers are being asked by the government to socially distance themselves from friends, meaning they are trapped at home with parents and siblings. Can you see the eye rolls? How many parents are quoting the proverbial? If you keep rolling your eyes, they’ll get stuck.
This pandemic has brought about new challenges to all, so for the parents quarantined with adolescents, this post is for you. Here are 10 facts about adolescence to help parents survive the at-home quarantine. Because let’s be honest, a small part of us LOVES having our teenagers home.
1. They are literally missing parts of their brain.
No, Seriously. We aren’t talking zombie-movie either.
Adolescents have a part of the brain, the frontal lobe, that doesn’t fly at max capacity until around 25. It’s the part that helps people make logical, good decisions. Think go-cart without a fully developed brake.
So when they make the [what-in-the-world-were-you-thinking] decision to write on furniture with a Sharpie or post THAT post, breath, set appropriate boundaries, and remember their brain is in a full-blown developmental phase.
2. Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty Bitty Living Space!
If only the Genie from Aladdin understood the power of the amygdala.
The drama around teenagers is thick, and the majority of it stems from a small, almond-shaped part of the brain called the amygdala. Where the logical part of the brain is running on minimum capacity, the emotional part of the brain is at the max.
This developmental stage is why they change emotions like a runway model for Fashion Week in New York City. And if you are, I mean, collectively gathering as a family to social distance yourselves, this situation can be quite combustible.
When the going gets GOING, calmly communicate, you will step away with an intent to return. By giving yourself space to cool off, you give them time too. Conversations aren’t productive when both parties operate like they are a 16-shot firework on the 4th of July.
3. Sleeping Beauty has nothing on these teenagers.
So misunderstood, they are.
Teenagers need sleep, like serious sleep. If they go to bed at 9 and sleep until 9, they’re not lazy; they are growing. Sleep is as healthy as those squash noodles you try to pass off as spaghetti.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8 to 10 hours of sleep for adolescence. So hey, this quarantine thing is the perfect time to let them get the developmentally appropriate sleep they need.
4. They have more opinions than a politician in election season.
The time will soon arrive for the baby bird to leave the nest, and one of the ways life prepares them is to develop their ideas, judgments, and conclusions.
Sure they once clung to your every word, but now they must figure out for themselves what they think about education, faith, global warming, and the Star Wars Trilogy.
Give them a little breathing room and see what beauty may emerge. Ask for opinions on school cancellations, social distancing, NBA 2K’s celebrity games, and Charli D’Amelio.
5. Teenagers rotate interests, relationships, and styles faster than Mystique in X-Men.
Adolescents have one foot in adulthood and one foot in childhood. For them, it is like playing the ball game of life with one foot in a high heel and the other one in a cleat. Just plain awkward for almost a decade. Ugh.
Their brain is growing. [The fancy word is neuroplasticity meaning their brain is under construction.] So teenagers are way more open and willing to try new things, which is pretty remarkable when you see positive possibilities.
So when they bounce from their favorite food being chicken nuggets to sushi wrapped in an organic, grass-fed [pretty sure that isn’t a thing] seaweed, just roll with it. Get it?
Within a few months, they might be vegan, keto, vegetarian, or carnivore. Who knows?!?
6. Friends are EVERYTHING!!!
Think about the top teen novels and movies. Does the protagonist usually save the world with their family? Nope. Keep that storyline for the kids’ edition, The Incredibles. When it comes to teenagers, they save the world with their friends!
Friends are a big deal to the teenager, which is developmentally appropriate. They need to start making the transition into adulthood [remember the high heel and cleat?], and investing in friendships is how they go about accomplishing that task.
Depending upon their personality type, they may have 1-2 sincere, close friends, or 15 besties. Either way, the quarantine has rocked their “friend” world. Sure they are digital natives and live so much of their life online, but they still get in plenty of social interaction with school and extra-curricular activities.
Offer empathy and encourage them to keep connecting online, especially during the quarantine. It is healthy for the soul.
7. Living with a teenager is like living with a bomb dog. They find what you hide.
Adolescents seem to have a sixth sense. Based on the fact their brain is under construction, they use this superpower to survive the ever-so-infamous social pecking order at school, but they also use this at home to learn the lay of the land.
As teenagers gather data at a rapid speed to understand how the world works, they also watch how parents live their lives. In other words, they can spot a fake quicker than Anna Wintour, so keep it real [developmentally appropriate, of course] about life. They can be way more graceful than you think.
8. Find a happy place! Find a happy place!
Hmmm…whose Darla from Finding Nemo?!? Parents or teenagers?
This generation is the first group of adolescents to grow up entirely in the digital age. Inundated with social media, they see lives presented through a rose-colored filter. [Disney anyone? Is it really the most magical place on earth with two hour waits and being run over by stressed-out stroller dads?]
Our teenagers live in a society laced with seemingly perfect, Insta-ready peers.
Their generation may not be drafted to war with guns, but research has yet to be completed on how social media and the digital age is affecting their minds. They, too, fight a war…it’s just a war of the mind.
So check in on their socials, on them. Ask questions and pay [casual] attention as they scroll. Then pray. Ask questions, then pray some more.
9. The “H” word every teenage parent fears: Hacked. Ok, well, second: Hormones.
Puberty ushers in testosterone and estrogen, like a coupon lady on Black Friday, and, at the same time, their bodies prepare for… I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one.
Those hormones are healthy, God-given, and developmentally appropriate, so no place for shame. But while they are transforming quicker than Optimus Prime, the hormones affect their moods and emotions.
It’s like Baby Jack-Jack has a grown man’s body and can talk. So while you are in tight quarters with this kaleidoscope of a human being, offer yourself some grace and your teenager. Define appropriate guidelines and be consistent. This season too, shall pass.
10. Knowing is Half the Battle.
Who knew G.I. Joe was spouting such wisdom in the ’80s?
Teenagers have a brain that is evolving like a chia-pet, which means they got a whole lot going inside that body of theirs. While you may reminisce about the days of Dora and Diego, your son or daughter may be wondering what is happening to me!?! [My guess is you might be too.]
When the time is right [and timing is everything with teenagers], drop a spoonful of adolescence education their way, but just a spoonful. A bite of dark chocolate a day can be healthy for your heart, but a candy bar a day, well, you get it.
If your teenager understands even a fraction of what is going on in their brain, it can create opportunities for empathy, confidence, and hope.
You’ve Got This
I don’t know what lies ahead, and all we have is today, so I hope this piece helps you connect to your teenager at this moment. I hope these 10 facts about adolescence help you, my fellow parents, not just survive but thrive during the quarantine.
These adolescents are already in a different season of life, but now it is coupled with a front-row seat to living history- the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020. They need a consistent, unconditional, grace-filled, flexible-on-when-to-show-it love.
Who better to offer it than you?
You’ve got this!