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Adults – Here Are Three Key Things to Know about Teens and Young Adults

Introduction: Adults often say that it’s hard to crack the code on the teens in their lives. They complain that they don’t understand them; between the mood swings, lack of communication, time spent with friends, etc. It is not uncommon for caring adults to feel out of touch with the everyday experiences of young people.

Here are three key things to remember about adolescents:

  1. Adolescents may look grown, but they are still developing.

A hallmark of adolescence is that teens often look (and feel) more mature than they actually are. However, it is critical to remember that they are undergoing the largest phase of physical, cognitive, mental, and emotional development in the human lifespan. Research shows that the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for logic, reasoning, critical thinking, rational decision making, impulse control, social skills, and emotional regulation, is not fully matured until an individual reaches their late twenties. That means that it is developmentally appropriate for teens to lash out, push back, make mistakes and poor choices, and use emotion-based reasoning in favor of logic. It is important for adults to avoid placing adult-like freedoms and responsibilities on teens when they are developmentally unable to meet those standards. Instead, adults can encourage teens to think critically about their situation and set reasonable boundaries in place for the teen to stay safe and supported.

  • Adolescents want to be accepted for who they are and who they’re becoming.

While it is important to understand adolescents need age-appropriate guidance, freedom, and responsibility, it is equally important for adults to accept and respect them. Teens are wired to engage in identity exploration and development throughout adolescence. They experiment with who they are, what they value and believe, and begin to solidify their sense of self in their early twenties. However, a teen’s ability to engage in identity development relies on, among several things, the quality of their environment and the people in it. Teens can only explore when they feel safe and supported enough to do so. Caring adults, this is why it is critical to be openly accepting and tolerant of the adolescents you interact with. Your acceptance bolsters their confidence and willingness to take risks and grow.

  • Adolescents want to talk to adults, but without judgment.

Teens and young adults are often willing to talk about their experiences, if they can do so freely and without the fear of judgment. It is critical for young people to have open, secure relationships with caring adults in their lives for guidance, stability, and support. Are you a caring adult who wants to be a safe space for a teen, but you don’t know where to start? Check out our blogs on Active Listening and Communication Starters for tips on how to break the ice.

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