By Bryn Jessup, PhD
Director, Family Services & Systems,
In Illinois, the governor’s stay-at-home order has meant that you and your teenager are probably spending more time at home than you used to, maybe more than you even thought possible. Your teenager has become better acquainted than ever with their phone, their screens and their game systems … with social media and all the usual platforms for communicating with friends and others … and, for better and for worse, with the other members of their own family. Especially with you!
All this togetherness gets complicated and even crazy-making at times. Understanding better what our teenagers are going through can point the way to helping them manage their stress levels and protect your own sanity in the process.
- Compared with their younger selves, most teenagers want to spend more time with peers, doing more kinds of self-directed activities with friends, and cultivating interests and activities that set them apart from other members of their family.
Extensive research in adolescent development reveals it to be a time of significant brain development particularly in those areas of the brain responsible for directed action and decision-making, including the prefrontal cortex (Giedd, 2015; Siegel, 2014). At the same time, there is a strong developmental push to establish greater independence and autonomy in the context of family relationships, especially with parents (Arnett, 2009). Add to these developments the activation of teenage endocrine systems that in turn heighten emotional experience and reactivity. Research confirms what you may know as parents: older teenagers actually experience emotions more intensely than do children and adults (Sapolsky, 2017). Taken together, these developmental trends mean that most teenagers are strongly disposed to make decisions and take action in the service of keenly felt needs for greater independence, separation and autonomy.Continue reading Navigating quarantine with your teenager