“Psychology Today” has published an article by Gary Wenk, Ph.D. about young people’s illusion of immortality. In the article he said: “When your frontal lobes finally complete their process of myelination, they begin to work properly and you stop doing dangerous things.”
As much as we love to cling to biological answers, they often distract us from noticing many other factors that we do have power over. I don’t doubt the findings, but I question the limiting conclusion. I give young people much more credit for their power over themselves and I doubt if there is one cause for any human tendency. It would have been interesting to study the brains of past youth, before the recent invention of the concept “teenager.” After all, for most of human history, young people in their teen years were parents and acted as adults.
While some (at all ages) love scary activities and the adventure of taking chances, others have no interest in risky experiences. Like wise, taking chances (other than risky activities) is not limited to youth, and not all teens go through such a phase. Do these kids who tend to me more conservative have a higher awareness of their mortality? Or, more likely, are they driven by different passions? Biological evidence has very limited relevance when you observe your unique teenager. However, self-reliance can be cultivated and increase the young person’s awareness and commitment to his own wellbeing.
In my work with thousands of families’ world wide, I see that young people’s self-reliance can be cultivated. We can: 1) Nurture their emotional self-trust, so they won’t be dependent on external approval, and 2) Model care of our and their wellbeing with passion without falling for pressures from outside. 3) Stay connected and in tune with our kids so we know what other unique tendencies drive them and how to best support their awareness and their connection to their core being.
1) Teenagers who are rooted in themselves (not focused on seeking approval,) make choices from inside and don’t let external cues override their inner guidance. To nurture this quality we can minimize manipulative praise and conditional love and other strategies that teach a child to seek external approval. When a young person knows she is worthy and loved, not based on achievements or on pleasing others, but simply for being herself, she is much less likely to be insecure and needy of the approval of others.
2) If we model that we care about wellbeing, children will care too. We can model it by taking it seriously. Start by making healthy food priorities important; healthy habits; healthy homes; and a commitment to safety that a child can see. For example, even if a child rides a bike only in the yard, put a helmet on her head; provide nontoxic toys and clothes; drive your car with courtesy; care to put your child’s bed away from Electro Magnetic Fields etc. Don’t trivialize wellbeing by saying, “Oh well, eat some sugar, it won’t kill you.” Avoid slogans like “Everything in moderation,” it simply is not always true and can demonstrate carelessness about wellbeing. And, resist the pressure of your own relatives and friends because your child is learning from you.
3) Realize that there is no one nicely packaged answer to a teenager’s needs and behaviors. Stay connected and opened eyed. At the end of the day your son or daughter is one of a kind and requires custom-made care. Know her well and stay connected so she feels comfortable including you in her thoughts, concerns and decisions.
©Copyright Naomi Aldort
Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, sold in thirteen languages. Her advice columns are published in progressive parenting magazines worldwide.
Aldort offers guidance by phone/Skype internationally regarding all ages, babies through teens: attachment parenting; natural learning; peaceful and powerful parent-child/teen relationships, self-realization, marriage and more. Products, phone sessions, teleclasses and free newsletter: www.authenticparent.com