Talking with teens is more than just a chance to catch up, or to investigate what they are doing in their free time. Talking provides an opportunity to teach important life skills–at a crucial time in a teen’s brain development. Between the ages of 11 and 25, the human brain’s prefrontal cortex reaches its peak ability to form neural connections that are responsible for “executive functioning,” which is depended upon throughout a lifetime for higher-level reasoning and decision-making.
The Council’s Choices curriculum identifies seven executive functioning skills that can be cultivated during the crucial ages of 11 to 25. “Many parents believe they can’t do anything to influence what their teenagers think or do,” said Crystal Collier, PhD, LCP-S, Director of the Behavioral Health Institute at The Council. “But when parents and educators understand what skills can be developed and how to do that, they can use specific types of questions and conversations to guide teens toward building appropriate skills and choices.” For example, problem solving is one executive functioning skill that can be strengthened when a teen asks, “How am I going to fix this?” Instead of solving the problem, adults can ask questions to help the teen think and find his or her own solution. Or the adult can encourage a brainstorming session that involves the teen in coming up with various options. Another way to strengthen problem-solving skills is to help a teen review what he or she did when solving a problem successfully. For instance, when youngsters declare that they have solved a problem, a parent can respond, “That’s great! How’d you do it?” Asking them to review the process reinforces and strengthens their ability to use that skill.
The neural connections in the brain are like pathways through the forest. If used often, they become permanent trails that are easy to travel. If not used, they disappear completely. Contrary to what parents may think, they do have some control over which pathways their children build and ultimately influencing what they do, by asking the right types of questions–skillfully and often.
Educate yourself on the challenges that young people face today by joining us at The Council’s Back-to-School Workshop on August 5. You can’t talk to your teen about making healthy choices, or detect the warning signs that your teen may be in trouble, if you aren’t familiar with current hazardous trends. The Workshop on August 5th will teach you what you need to know, about:
- Sex, Alcohol, Consent: New trends in the Hook-up Culture
- Technology: OMG U Need 2 Kno This!
- Deadly Marijuana Trend: Vaping Hash Oil Products
- Pornography: The New Drug
- Teen Suicide, Stress & Anxiety
We hope to see you there, and we plan for you to leave empowered with new knowledge and confidence that YOU can be your child’s most EFFECTIVE defense against high-risk behavior.