In his book Brainstorm, Dr. Dan Siegel talks describes adolescence as a time to be cultivated well. But, parenting an adolescent is hard, y’all! Really hard. They often leave parents asking which kid is real. The one who still wants a cuddle, or the one who brushes you off? The one who seeks your advice, or the one who yells that you can’t possibly understand?
The gifts of adolescence, as Dr. Siegel describes them, are novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration. Each of these has its upsides and downsides. It is easy to forget the upsides when adolescent behaviors are reckless, rude, or frightening. Parenting an adolescent is hard, but being one is ten times harder. When teens were asked for a word to describe adolescence, Siegel notes, their responses were: isolated, crazed, confused, a mess, alone, terrified, wild, out of control, lost, seeking, and frightened.
Adolescents benefit greatly from being around adults who are more interested in their cultivation than controlling their behavior. The following are some questions to consider when parenting, coaching, or mentoring the awesome adolescents in your life.
For Novelty Seeking:
What activities seem exciting and thrilling to you? What do you see friends doing that you think you might want to try, but you’re not sure how to make it safe?
For Social Engagement:
Which people make you feel your best, and which people make you feel less?
Who can you be authentic with?
For Increased Emotional Intensity:
What do you feel passionately curious about?
For Creative Exploration:
What problems in the world do you think you are uniquely suited to solve?