Love Your Teen’s Risky Behavior

Teens love the thrill of taking risks. They seek out experiences that will stimulate their senses, emotions, and thinking in new and challenging ways. Daniel Siegel describes this novelty seeking as part of the adolescent’s E.S.S.E.N.C.E. (read The Essence of Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains at sunsetAdolescence for more information). Like our teens’ Emotional Spark (read more about the Emotional Spark of Your Adolescent’s ESSENCE), their Novelty (N) seeking stems from brain changes that produce an increased drive for reward. Novelty seeking plays an important role in teen development. It helps them try out emerging abilities. It prompts them to leave the familiar comforts of home and venture into an unknown world. Their Emotional Spark contributes to seeking Novel experiences with passion and gusto, enabling our teens to seek out and establish their identity in the adult world outside their childhood home. As beneficial as this is, it does carry risk, some healthy and some dangerous. At least four actions can help parents work with their teens’ desire for Novelty and adventure while buffering the potential dangers.

  1. Get to know your teens. Become a student of their interests, ideas, activities, friends… their life. I know you have known them all their lives, but they are changing. You see their bodies changing. Now get to know how their inner world is changing as well—their thoughts and emotions, ideas and values. Learn about their insecurities and fears. Explore their interests and ideas. Listen to their emerging dreams and their developing sense of self. You will find it exciting to learn about your developing teen.
  2. As you learn about your teens, provide adventures based on their interests and values. Create opportunities of healthy risk for your teen. These can include anything from BMX riding, mission trips, hunting, rock climbing, or video production. The possibilities are as limitless as your teens’ potential interests. The important thing is to shape the adventure around your teens’ interests.
  3. Communicate with your teen. When you communicate with your teen listen more than you talk. Show genuine curiosity in what they have to say rather than lecture, advise, or direct. Listen attentively. Show genuine interest in what they think. Be curious enough to understand them deeply.

To accomplish the three steps above, you need to spend time with your teen…as much time as you can. Find creative ways to spend time with your teen. Make the most of every opportunity to interact with them, whether while driving them to and from activities or hiking the Appalachians. The time you invest will yield great dividends of enjoyable conversation and intimate relationship.

Your teens’ desire for novelty can provide wonderful opportunities for you to connect with your teen. It may also spark new life into your middle aged lifestyle. Why not enjoy the benefits of your teens’ E.S.S.E.N.C.E for your sake and theirs?

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