Every mother has experienced losing her child in a big shopping mall during a busy festive season. You don't even know where to start looking for your child. Your body fills with fear, your heart drops as your eyes pierces into every part of the shop. Where are they? where did they go and why didn’t they listen when you told them to stay close? As your retail therapy excitement dwindles, you frantically go up and down the escalators forsaking all shopping desires to find your precious child.
This is exactly how I felt when my children got to the puberty stage and teenage years. I have watched my three children mature. They are not the babies I use to rock to sleep and toddler who use to wear my make-up and pretend to be me. They're another version of me, confident, intelligent, strong, opinionated. Yet, I know deep inside, they are the same wonderful, kind, bright and bubbly children they've always been.
To figure it out, I decided to delve into the world of research on this somewhat foreign species in my house called teenagers and used that knowledge to navigate my way more smoothly into their adulthood. Just like how I would pace up and down the escalators in the shopping mall, my research made me realise that my teenagers’ brains are still developing and changing. The most important part of the human brain, where actions are weighed, situations are judged and decisions are made is the last to develop in teenagers. Also, in my search I realised that teenage brains and bodies are undergoing extensive reorganisation. In this phase the apparent recklessness, rudeness and carelessness are not totally their fault. Katie Foster states in her article in the Guardian Newspaper,
“Clothes left in the bathroom, losing things, plates festering under the bed… Why doesn’t my teenager care about being tidy? Tidiness needs a sophisticated level of cognitive control, and the way the teenage brain is connected means that their planning is not very good. Parts of the brain connect to each other through synapses, which are insulated, just like electric wires. That insulation is a fatty substance called myelin, which is created over time. The process takes years, and it starts at the back of the brain and slowly moves forward. The last bits of the brain to connect are the frontal and prefrontal cortices, where insight, empathy and risk taking are controlled. This means that very smart adolescents will do very stupid things in a very impulsive way.”
So, if you are going through the terrible teenage years, have hope that it will not last forever. Each teenager will be different so learn how to set appropriate boundaries. Remember, there is still a child within your teenager no matter how grown they think they are. They still require love, support and direction.