In this episode:
What I love about Dr. Sarkis is that she dives into the science and research behind how the brain works. In this episode, we start off by talking about the inevitable friction of a child separating from parents during the teen years and how that can be hard for both the child and the parents. However, it is a critical stage in development that I know to anticipate, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. We talk about how teens build some of that independence through online relationships and how that is so different from how we built our relationships in the past, but in many ways, the seeking of connection is the same. Dr. Sarkis talks about how the size of a teen brain is fully grown but not all connected. I picture a bunch of cords not plugged into outlets. She talks about how this lack of connection, which is totally normal at this age, is what causes teens to struggle with emotion regulation, problem-solving, frustration tolerance, and sequencing. These are the limitations that I know can be so hard for me as a parent to witness because some of them seem so basic; however, being reminded of the norms of this developmental stage help give me so much more compassion for my kids and myself.
We get into how hard it is to watch your kids struggle and how to manage the impulse to jump in to save them from the lesson they need for development. I know that I can be inclined to want to save my kids from hard consequences, but usually, those real-life lessons are what help them grow and learn the most. I am growing and learning right along with them, whether I like it or not! Temperament and how the nervous system regulates risk-taking behaviors can vary from child to child and may often be at odds with how much risk a parent can tolerate. I am opposed to this harsh truth but turns out it is one of those realities that my kids continue to teach me. I am learning way more about myself than I ever wanted to know. I am guessing your kids are also teaching you more about yourself. Dr. Sarkis has a great reminder that we are all just learning. Our kids are learning how to be 11, it’s their first time, and it’s our first time as a parent of this child at 11. I am co-learning with my kids constantly, and I think this helps take the pressure off that we should somehow already know how to parent like we know what we are doing.
Some things are known to help with this developmental stage, and one of the biggest factors for kids is sleep. Helping kids create structure about healthy sleep habits can be critical and given that impulse control is not solid at this stage it can often mean that kids are not able to implement good sleep habits on their own. I will admit that this was much easier when my kids were younger, but hearing the reminder helps me remember why it is still important to get in the game and not expect that my kids can set their own limits. She says, without getting rigid, getting about 9 hours of sleep is optimal. The last three hours of sleep are most impactful for emotional development and consolidation of learning. When sleep is interrupted, it can interfere with learning and focus.
Technology boundaries are an ongoing work in progress in my house, and I know firsthand it is not easy. Dr. Sarkis suggests working to have open communication about the topics you are most worried about online. Creating a situation where you are available and open to any and all conversations is valuable, and trying to listen more than you talk goes a long way. A sense of genuine curiosity will help you better understand your child. Gender plays a big role during the teen years and beyond in how teens manage relationships, and we talk about how boys can often shake things off more quickly than girls may. We discuss finding the balance between exploring and identifying emotions without getting into a rut of over-analysis. We also talk about helping kids stay connected with their intuition and trusting their instincts. You may wonder how that works with a brain not all the way connected, and that is a great question, and I think that is why this is all so hard!
I felt so reassured by everything Dr. Sarkis shares about what is normal and what to anticipate from teens. It helps me give so much more compassion for my kids and myself as I navigate being a parent.