Award winning author, educator, and speaker Maggie Dent shares her top tips for supporting adolescents.
All adolescents need lots of support and encouragement to navigate the bumpy road, the journey from childhood to adulthood. Having a “lighthouse” as a beacon of support is essential for adolescents to make it to the end of the journey — healthy and on track — to realise their full potential.
1. Use supportive, empowering communication
“People who have had a strong connection with a strong positive role model during adolescence are much more resilient throughout their life.”
— Nan Bahr and Diane Pendergast, The Millennial Adolescent (2007)
You can support support adolescents by using caring, empowering communication:
- Use words of suggestion not direction
- Avoid shame-based language
- Encourage thinking and making choices
- Lighten up!
- Remember they are temporarily brain impaired
- Choose right time to talk and use door openers
- Avoid using don’t — try “next time”
- Ensure they are listening
- Never argue with an adolescent
- Co-parent your teen’s friends and vice versa
2. Be respectful
Respectful parent messages that can help:
- Now that’s interesting!
- Have you given that much thought?
- Why don’t you sleep on it?
- Tell me ‘what if’?
- May I offer a suggestion?
- How can I support you?
3. Brain Boosters
For an adolescent's brain to work at it's best, it needs:
- Good quality food
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Feel-good brain chemicals
Did you know? Adolescents need more sleep than pre-pubescents or adults.
4. Activities to fight stress and empty the emotional barometer
Teens doing things they enjoy, which are respectful of themselves and others, creates positive brain chemicals. Here are some that work:
- Athletic success & sport — team and individual
- Artistic & creative expression — drama, dance, music, art
- Deep relaxation & stillness — calming audios, quiet time at beach
- Pets that love unconditionally!
- Safe, honest human connection — deep human connectedness, family, friendship
- Significant immersion in nature — walking, surfing, fishing, walking the dog
- Acts of service — helping others
- Discovering new purpose & meaning — starting something new such as gratitude
journal, fitness program
5. Useful apps and programs
Smiling Mind: A modern meditation app for young people… helps with stress, anxiety, depression, positive thinking and general wellbeing.
The Headspace meditation app is another excellent resource that teaches adolescents how to meditate and thein just a few minutes a day.
Reachout has a great, professionally reviewed list of apps and tools to help you look after your health and wellbeing.
SuperBetter: An online game to help you achieve health-related goals by increasing resilience.
The Brave Program: self-help programs for teens to help cope with worry and anxiety.
Break Up Shake Up: Easy, fun things to do to help you cope with a relationship breakup and recover quicker.
The Check-in app: From BeyondBlue this app helps you start a conversation with a friend who may be struggling.
MoodGym: Skills for preventing and coping with depression.
6. Good reads
The Adolescent Brain - What all teens need to know article from heysigmund.com
7. Help for teens
If you need someone to help you feel safe, accepted and heard, please talk to your GP, or call or visit:
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelp.com.au
Life Line: 131 11 44 or www.lifeline.org.au
Suicide Callback Service: 1300 65 94 67 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
The following sites also have some fantastic information and resources to help teens navigate a range of issues. Some of these services also offer email or web counselling and live chat.
8. Maggie Dent resources
Watch Maggie’s TEDx Youth@Hale talk with your adolescent. Exploring the Big Question — Why Am I Here?
Visit: youtube.com/maggiedentauthor to watch the talk and see Maggie's playlist of other useful video blogs about adolescence, as well as her Maggie Soother exercises (for the whole family). You can also read some blogs about/for adolescents here. In particular, check out Maggie’s blog: Beware the Teen Tipping Point.
Finally for adolescents, we have some great infographics, audios, ebooks and other resources
in Your Kit Bag for a Bumpy Ride: http://www.maggiedent.com/yourkitbag.
Hear more advice and tips from Maggie in the recent Raise The power of showing up podcast episode 21 with Georgie Gardner.
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