Adolescence has always been a challenging time for parents and teens to get through. Typically, this is because adults feel teens are lazy and/or out of control. However, these behaviors are usually present because teens feel uninspired and lack the right motivation in their lives. And while the development of the brain hasn’t changed, the environment around teens is constantly changing. Now, with the global pandemic at the forefront of our lives, teens are struggling to even complete the minimum daily tasks. Finding ways to inspire teens will ignite their motivation and support them in creating new things again.
The teen years are a time when the brain is in a very vulnerable state. Changes in the brain, along with physical, social, and emotional developmental shifts, make for an intense array of day to day challenges. This vulnerability, coupled with an ever-present pandemic, has now amplified these challenges and has decreased teens’ motivation even more. And since adolescence is a time that parents and other adults want teens to “get through,” they often miss the opportunities to guide teens instead. Understanding that this stage is vital in the cultivation of a teenager’s independent thinking and that the changes in their brains are essential to how they will manage success in the future will help adults nurture these critical shifts.
During adolescence, the brain has a lot of plasticity so teens can adapt quickly to a changing environment. However, they are often just directed to learn and repeat tons of information, so their creativity becomes stymied. To better guide teens during this sensitive stage, adults must boost their brains by encouraging them to be creative and solution-oriented. And since teens strive for independence and want to know their actions matter, they need to be allowed to take some risks to help them develop an appropriate gauge for decision making that will follow them throughout their lives. This will also boost their brain and enhance their overall development.
The methods used by the SKILLZ program are based on years of research in child development and psychology. With teens, instructors foster intrinsic motivation by giving teens the ability to make choices in class. This allows them the space for creativity and sparks their motivation, ultimately inspiring them to continue to do more. These same concepts are translated to parents for their use at home with their teens. Combined with the Parent SKILLZ courses in areas such as patience, nurturing, and attunement, parents can provide the most significant opportunities for new abilities to develop in their teens during a critical developmental time.
The teen brain is “wired to be inspired” and although most adults view adolescence as a time when teens only make bone-headed decisions, it’s important to note that these developmental changes make way for new abilities to emerge. By allowing teens room for trial and error and supporting their choices, parents can stimulate excitement and cultivate a better relationship with their child. Approaching adolescence this way will create the best opportunities for teens to make the most of these impressionable years.
Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology and has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.