The teenage years are a real struggle for many. Parents and children alike.
In the previous episode, I wrote a letter to “A Struggling Parent” - so, it’s only fair I write a letter to “A Struggling Teenager.”
If you are parent listing to this - invite you to share this episode with your child. It might help them understand what’s going on in their heads.
Dear Struggling Teen,
It's not just you
I want you to know this
And I also want you to know that what you are feeling is temporary. That speaks to good feelings as well as bad feelings. But it's all just temporary.
Our mental health is like a bright blue sky. Every so often clouds come along.
They could be the white fluffy ones that aren't too bad – that gently float away without too much effort.
Sometimes we get the grey clouds that might bring along some wind or rain. They stay for a bit longer – but still, they move on after a little while.
And then there are the black clouds or sometimes a total coverage – that totally obliterates the blue sky behind. But rest assured, that the blue sky is still there – waiting to reveal itself again. It might just take a bit of time.
Thing is with being a teenager – everyone tells you about hormones and how your body changes.
Bits get bigger
Your voice changes
Hairs start sprouting
But not many people talk about how your mind is affected
And for some kids – it just becomes a hot mess.
One lad said that it's like a five-lane motorway going on in his head – but all the cars are going in different directions.
Another child said “It feels like having a brain full of porridge - I just can't think straight"
And if you don't know what to expect – it's bloody scary
So here's the sciences-bit.
During childhood, the brain develops at an alarming rate – and by the time you approach puberty, the brain has the power of a supercomputer – or even like the Internet.
But here's the problem – the software that is currently installed in your brain is still going through its upgrades.
It's only really got the power of a microwave.
Impressive enough – but not as sophisticated as it needs to be. As I said – it's still upgrading.
But all this takes time – and it's totally worth it.
So be patient, please.
I need you to be kind to yourself.
I need you to treat yourself with compassion and some understanding (a bit like when your Gran is learning to use text for the first time – there is a learning curve).
It takes a huge amount of brainpower and energy to make these adjustments – and it is – to be fair – bloody knackering!
This is why you get angry quicker
This is why you say random things without thinking
This is why you need your sleep
This is why you mess up
You are not lazy. It's biology.
Your mind and body are doing exactly what they are designed to do.
You see – as your brain is developing and trying to get its shit together - the amygdala – which is the bit in charge of your safety and well-being – it's often set to “ON” for too long.
That's why your anxiety levels are often heightened.
The amygdala was programmed to help us (when we were cavemen) to look out for danger – like the sabretooth tiger. It is programmed to keep us safe.
Sometimes, whilst our brains are going through such a massive transformation, it gets its knickers in a twist – and the amygdala is “ON” all the time.
Again this is exhausting.
Anxiety is exhausting.
And it is important to find ways to teach your brain that there are in fact no sabretooth tigers around at the minute!
Right, up until now, I've been talking about emotions because that's the first bit in your brain to develop.
The last bit of the brain to develop is the front bit – they call it the pre-frontal cortex.
That's the bit that's in charge of :
Decision-making & rational thinking
Focus & concentration
And all the bits about understanding consequences.
So whilst your pre-frontal cortex is upgrad