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Surprising Science

What Teens Need: A Guide for Parents

Building a close relationships with your adolescent may seem like the most difficult task but it is one of the most important ones.
Photo by Giles Thurnbul via Flickr.

In a recent article for the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger puts together a research-based guide to help parents navigate the difficult years of raising a teenager, highlighting the importance of parents keeping a strong bond with their kids. Here is a rundown of the most important points:

Ages 11-12

From a developmental point of view, this is the time when spatial reasoning skills tend to decline, which makes kids appear absent-minded, having hard time remembering what they’re supposed to do.

Parents should remain warm and supportive, rather than nag about forgotten responsibilities, as this has been shown to have a unique positive effect on adolescent brain development. Parents can help by teaching kids basic organizational skills and providing them with tools such as task management apps or practical everyday hacks.

Ages 13-14

These are the years where peers and their opinion become very important. Teens, however, still lack social skills, which may cause a lot of friendship drama. At the same time, dealing with stress is particularly difficult at this age and can take a serious toll. 

This is the moment for parents to step in and model constructive ways of coping with stress, overcoming challenges, and staying positive during arguments even when their teen slams doors and screams “Leave me alone!” This is the time to teach kids friendship skills and encourage them to choose friends based on shared interests rather than social status. Studies show that many of the emotional habits teens adopt at this age can stick with them through their lifetime. 

Photo: Emma Craig via Flickr

Ages 15-16

To the horror of most parents, this age is characterized by a peaked appetite for risk where normal fears of dangerous environments are temporarily suppressed. According to scientists, this biological change is a result of the evolutionary need to leave home and explore new habitats.  

A close relationship between teens and parents really pays off at this stage, as teens who are closer to their parents exhibit less risk-taking behaviors. Same goes for positive peer influence, which again highlights the importance of teaching kids how to choose and keep friends.

Age 17-18

This is the age where many teens are likely to achieve gains in IQ scores. While teens become better at noticing other people’s feelings and showing empathy, their social skills continue to develop and so do their problem-solving and planning skills to at least the age of 20. 

Read more here

Cover photo: Giles Thurnbul and Kamyar Adl via Flickr


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