When you understand a teenager’s brain, you become a miracle-maker!

When you understand a teenager’s brain, you become a miracle-maker!

Do you sometimes struggle to understand what is going on in the world of teenagers? Do you see a beautiful young person one day and then a monster the next? Do you tear your hair out at seemingly inexplicable mood swings? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Do you feel you are losing your relationship with a teenager? Welcome to the normal world of the teenager!  While I was researching adolescent behaviour and the latest adolescent brain research, I jotted down some key aspects of adolescent brain development. This knowledge significantly impacted HOW, when and why I communicated with teenagers from all walks of life as a parent, teacher, coach and mentor. We do well to pause from time to time and remember our own teenage experiences, how we felt at certain times, how we responded to situations, different people and so on as we journeyed through confusing times in search of meaning and purpose in our lives. A basic understanding of the teenage brain Due to the plasticity of the brain, it can be changed by experiences, a point that should always give HOPE to anyone working with young people. The frontal lobes make up 40% of the brain’s total volume. They are the seat of our ability to generate insight, judgment, abstraction, impulse control and planning. They are the source of self-awareness and our ability to assess dangers and risks, so we use this area of the brain to choose a course of action wisely. The frontal lobes are said to house the ‘Executive’ function of the human brain which only ceases developing in the...
How you can stay connected to young people

How you can stay connected to young people

Are there days when you wonder where your teenage child has come from? Or which side of the bed he or she climbed (or fell!) out of in the morning? Chances are they’re just being normal. Or, as a mentor, are there days when you wonder if you are achieving anything in your mentoring relationship? With so much going on in those young lives and the brain still developing, sometimes we just need to remember to stay focused and keep on keeping on being the loving parents and supportive and encouraging mentors we are. Maybe you need some user-friendly tips to encourage you? 20 meaningful ways to stay connected to young people So, here’s a summary of some research I did. 20 meaningful ways to stay connected to our young people, in no particular order, that overlap with many thoughts and ideas linked to the Spirit of Mentoring. We should spend time with our children, especially when we would rather be doing something else. Invest energy when we are exhausted; take family holidays together as much as possible. Remember, there are some key skills our children need in the 21st Century, which Schools might not be paying enough attention to: public speaking, management of time, relationship building skills, negotiation and resolving conflict skills. The mentoring relationship could enhance many of these. Bite our tongues when we want to lash out. Take a deep breath and count SLOWLY to 20 when we want to scream. Keep telling our children that we love them unconditionally and nothing will ever change that – be honest and authentic at all times. Tell our children...
How you can encourage a teenager who wants to drop out

How you can encourage a teenager who wants to drop out

Were there any times in your youth when you felt like dropping out of school? Personal issues clouded your judgment, perhaps? Or you felt that you had no-one to turn to? Or you feared leaving school because you had no idea what career to follow? We have no idea what lies around the corner later today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. It is unknown territory especially for our youth who are continually hearing that many of today’s jobs will disappear, yet no-one knows what the future job market will hold. The storm clouds of confusion are threatening and never seem to move along.  Over the years I have spent time with young people who have been struggling with issues like these for a variety of reasons. Some have wanted to give up completely and leave school, believing that they can find a job and that is all that is important. There will be a story behind these feelings, as there always is and, if you are in a mentoring role, you will probably be able to discern what is going on as you and your mentee establish a trusting and meaningful relationship. Be patient, as this might take some time. So often young people need encouragement to share what is on their mind knowing that they will not be judged. Often they need reassurance that their current state of confusion is experienced by an overwhelming number of teenagers at a variety of times during the adolescent journey. There are occasions when they might need a reality check before they make a decision, such as dropping out...
10 Daily Tips for you to encourage Teenagers to fulfill their potential

10 Daily Tips for you to encourage Teenagers to fulfill their potential

Did you have any superstitions or strange habits when you were an adolescent? I certainly did. When I was padding up to bat in a Cricket match, I always put my left pad on first. Why on earth did I do that? It seems so strange when I think about it now. You will see some of the top Tennis players, for example, have superstitions – how they walk off the court at the end of the game; how they move at the end of a point; how they lay out their seating area; mannerisms before they serve a ball …. Or, did you have something special you did to rid yourself of exam nerves, as Angie did? “You’ll think this is really silly,” Angie said to me when we were chatting about positive preparation for her final exams. “Nothing is silly if it helps you stay calm and rids you of stress,” I responded. “Well, before I write my exams, I listen to a whole lot of my favorite Disney film songs,” Angie informed me with a broad smile. “It just works for me and makes me feel calm and happy.” “And your brain is releasing some chemicals that will help you feel positive and calm, a ‘feel good’ effect,” I was able to offer as a word of encouragement. Australian psychologist, Andrew Fuller, comments in his excellent book – well worth reading, as it is loaded with helpful tips – Tricky Teens – How to create a great relationship with your teen … without going crazy!, about the power of music to access our emotions and suggests...
14 practical ways you can encourage and support teenagers from high risk environments

14 practical ways you can encourage and support teenagers from high risk environments

“Kids don’t need independence, they need interdependence. People are homeless because they have no functioning human relationships in their lives. Who in this society can live independently? All human beings want to belong somewhere.” (Pat O’Brien – founder of You Gotta Believe Program for older foster teens in New York) Have you worked with young people from high-risk environments or from families that are not functioning too well? Having been an educator for 40 years and been actively involved in youth mentoring programs, I have come across young people who had been physically and/or emotionally abused and was often in awe of their resiliency as they worked through life’s challenges. Yesterday I was researching for a book I am writing to encourage teachers and was reminded of the major challenges facing these educators when working with students from disadvantaged and/or high risk environments where there might be poverty, abuse, bullying and trauma. These students will probably experience different levels of toxic stress, depending on their personal experiences, which can disrupt development and cause learning problems. Their possible antisocial behavior can lead to social failure, which may produce a depressed mood. Rejection from peers, family or extended family problems and academic difficulties contribute to the onset of depression among boys in particular. Parenting behavior contributes significantly to a young person’s self-esteem. Non-compliance and anti-social behavior are related to low self-esteem. 14 practical ways to support and encourage teenagers from high-risk environments Volunteer adults working with young people must always remember that they cannot and should not try and fix families or rescue teenagers. The task will be tough and challenging, requiring...
8 Tips to help you develop meaningful mentoring relationships with Teenagers

8 Tips to help you develop meaningful mentoring relationships with Teenagers

When you were a teenager, did you ever come across an adult who crushed your dreams? How did you react? Fortunately, all the people who nurtured me as a young person encouraged me to chase my dreams. I shall forever be grateful to so many or that. “Cindy wanted to be a Paramedic, but I crushed her dream and told her to do nursing,” Cindy’s mum shared with me. “And now Gemma wants to go into law or something like that and  I am trying to get her to do nursing. I crushed Cindy’s dream and now I am crushing Gemma’s dream. You know, I think she could be a great teacher!” I found it challenging to have this conversation with Cindy and Gemma’s mum. “Never crush a dream,” I said. “No wonder Gemma is not sure what she wants to do with her life.” Anyone working with young people will have heard many stories like this. What we should be doing is encouraging these teenagers to chase their dreams. The dreams will reveal a passion and, once that passion is identified, it is so much easier for teenagers to set realistic and achievable goals and feel that their lives have purpose and meaning. This underlines the importance of sowing the seeds of the Spirit of Mentoring when we are working with young people especially, although there are some common threads that will cross all mentoring relationships. 8 Tips to develop meaningful relationships with Teenagers My research over the years has led me to put together these 8 tips to develop meaningful relationships with teenagers journeying through the adolescent...