When kids reach adolescence, parents are most likely to feel vulnerable and insecure about their parenting, and divorce rates are at their highest. It’s important to listen to teenagers, and respect their opinions and ideas about their lives. One of the challenges for parents is incorporating teens’ opinions about what they need into their own ideas about what the kids actually need. Research can help in that process, but how can parents sift through the research to find out what’s useful?
Marilyn Price-Mitchell is a psychologist who translates research on adolescent development into parenting (and educational) practice. In a blog for Psychology Today, she pulled together the five studies of 2013 that she thought most important to bring to parents’ and teachers’ attention.
- Build community. We know lots about the dangers of ‘bad’ peer influences—gangs, bullying, peer pressure, etc.—but we’re learning more now about the benefits to kids’ development of positive community and peer influences. Parents can create support networks that work for their family. They can also look for resources for their kids, including mentors and positive role models. Finally, they can recognize that healthy peer relationships can build kids’ confidence and relationship-building skills.
- Go online. As kids move into adolescence, they can find more and more learning opportunities online. They can stay engaged in their areas of interest, become more self-directed in their learning, and expand their competence by finding meaningful online learning experiences. However, just as toddlers need to learn about the dangers of talking to strangers, teenagers need help learning to protect their identities, and keep themselves safe from online predators and bullies.
- 3. Play video games. Playing video games (or doing anything repeatedly) can change a person’s brain. Kids love video games, and until recently, the focus has been on the problems associated with violent games. Increasingly, however, researchers are looking at positive applications of video technology. For example, Tracy Dennis at Hunter College, City University of New York, has designed a stress reduction app called Personal Zen, which is available free: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/personal-zen/id689013447?ls=1&mt=8
- Use video chats carefully. Video chats can help kids develop and strengthen their networks of social support—and that’s a good thing—but video chats can also be used to share nudity and sexuality in ways that lead to bullying and other kinds of emotional damage. Teenagers need help learning to enjoy online chats with friends, while staying safe from the dangers.
- Learn to manage emotions. An important task of the years from 11 to 18 is learning to manage emotions. One of the best ways to do this is by working with others in situations that encourage reflection and analysis of interactions. Kids can learn to manage their frustration, anger, and worry, but they usually need help and support to do that. Adult program leaders
Marilyn Price-Mitchell’s synopsis of some of the most important studies of 2013:
For more on related topics: