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Is it NORMAL? When Teens Don’t Think Straight

We’ve heard the horror stories.  No need to review the tragedy that can be teens and young adults in America. Texting and driving.  Drinking and driving.  Falling off cliffs.  Jumping off buildings.  It’s unbearable really.  Life and death are as closely linked as fear and trembling.  Kids come in with “panic” or “anxiety” but what they really have is poor judgment.  This has been the case throughout history although worse, I would postulate, in the US of A because our society has become distorted by the media.  Reality TV, starring Donald the Chump Trump has become a way of life for most teens so that they rarely respect authority or reason.

Of course we also know that their brains do not fully form until the age of 25.  That means that from about 13 – 25, more than ten years, should be known as “the roller coaster years.”  We also know that the frontal lobe, the main site of judgment, is last to come in and last to “prune.”  So we wait.  They look so grown up.  They do well in school.  They drive your car.  Then boom!  They do the dumbest thing you can ever recall in recent memory.  They press accelerator instead of the break.  They drink in their rooms.  They turn their hair to purple.  They feed an edible to the dog.  They come home puking.  They return your car dented.  They lie. They scream.  They have unprotected sex. They get caught plagiarizing.  They leave the morning after pill in the kitchen.  WHAT???  Well the good news is, it’s normal and temporary.  The bad news: it can so easily cross the line.

I’m not going to tell you to seek professional help.  Of course you should.  It’s 2017.  That’s not a crime!  I’m not going to tell you to have clear and open communication and firm rules and boundaries.  Of course you should.  I’m not going to tell you that stigma is less important than getting proper guidance.  It isn’t.  Communication is more important than ever.  If they text, you text.  If they call, you call.  If they check in, you check in.  Tell your child to ask for what he or she needs directly and honestly, so at least you know what you’re dealing with.  According to WebMD:

For Parents

  1. Don’t lecture your teen, have a conversation. When parents complain “my teenager doesn’t want to talk to me,” what they’re really complaining about is “my teenager doesn’t want to listen to me.” Conversation involves at least two people, Steinberg emphasizes.
  2. Don’t attack. “The conversation between any two people will break down if one of the two is put on the defensive and made to feel he’s being accused of something,” says Steinberg.
  3. Show respect for your teen’s opinions. Teenagers can be surprisingly easy to talk with if the parents make it clear that they’re listening to the teen’s point of view.
  4. Keep it short and simple. Maxym urges parents to remember what she calls the “50% rule”: “Almost every parent says at least 50% more than he or she should. Shut up. Remember when you were a teen and your parents lectured at you? And you thought, ‘Will you please stop; I already got the point!’ Stop before your teen gets there.”
  5. Be yourself. Don’t try to talk like your kids or their friends. “You’re an adult, so be an adult,” Maxym says.
  6. Seize the moment. A spontaneous conversation in the car or at home late at night — any time when you’re not rushed — can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments, Steinberg says. “I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don’t come up when you expect them to.” 

There’s still time to help your teen.  They are not real adults for a long time.  Remember when you first started driving?  Did you really know how to drive?  Or have sex?  Or be responsible for that matter?  I don’t know about you but prom night was not my finest hour.  Thank God my Mother understood.

Is it NORMAL? When Teens Don’t Think Straight

Donna C. Moss

You can learn more about Donna's work at her personal website.

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APA Reference
Moss, D. (2017). Is it NORMAL? When Teens Don’t Think Straight. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sext-text/2017/03/is-it-normal-when-teens-dont-think-straight/


Last updated: 31 Mar 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Mar 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.