The teenage brain
To effectively parent an adolescent child, it is important to understand the functionality of the teenage brain. The psychology and behavior of teenagers have been proven by research as emanating from the variance in maturation of some parts of the brain at that age. The most recent studies indicate that the riskiest behaviors arise from a mismatch between the maturities of the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for driving emotions and becomes rapidly boosted in puberty, while the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for promoting sound judgements and control of impulses matures much later and continues to develop in a person’s 20s. Understanding and knowing that there is a widening gap between development of emotional and judgement senses in young people can help parents, teachers, counselors, and even teenagers manage adolescent sexuality.
Adults generally take a cynical view of teenage romance as crush, infatuation, or some acts of lust that need to be disallowed. Hormonal changes, triggered by brain and body developments, are largely responsible for the intense feelings of sexual attraction and falling in love. Testosterone and estrogen; the male and female sex hormones are associated with heightened sexual urges, while the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are involved in attachment and bonding. During puberty, the volume of these circulating sex hormones in the body rises dramatically causing adolescents to experience a special attraction for another. So, when a boy and a girl walk down the street holding hands, dizzy in love, it is inaccurate to assume that it is all about sexual attraction, however, true affection and intimacy is a feasible experience at this period. Parents should never castigate or ridicule a first love, it is an important relationship to teenagers, and should be as much of importance to parents as well because it is their child’s first intimate relationship with someone outside their family.
Navigating through late adolescence
It is natural to worry that things are getting too serious too soon. By age 16, adolescents exhibit strong sense of independence with beliefs that they can make their own decisions. But remember what we discussed under the teenage brain- their ability for risk assessment versus risk taking. As responsible parents, you don’t want to leave your child to the tutelage of their peers concerning sexuality issues, so here are few things you should teach your 16-year-old child as they transit to the final stage of adolescence.
- Strengthen the friendship -The first relationship advice for a 16-year old will be to be good friends with their crush. Friendship will lay a strong foundation for the relationship. Teenage is a very fragile phase of life and infatuations can happen quite easily too. To avoid being victims of infatuation, they must build their bond on friendship, starting with the right values and be supportive to each other. When in a relationship, they must make sure that they do not expect a lot from their partners and keep the relationship as simple as possible.
- Be Careful -An important relationship advice for 16-year olds is to be careful when trusting anybody. With the scrutiny of their parents, they are to make sure that they thoroughly know the person they are dating and not blindly trust them. It is important for parents and caregivers to know their child’s date and often engage in friendly, non-judgmental discussion with their child to ensure their child’s safety.
- Be Responsible – Your mature teenager will have new feelings, new emotions, and a lot of curiosities in a relationship. This is common to every teenager. But when they are in this phase you must tell them to be responsible for their actions. Sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and other physical and mental complications may arise if they are not responsible enough. Love each other, but do not get into trouble. This is an important relationship advice from parents to older adolescents. As difficult as it may seem for most parents to accept that their sweet 16 child may already be sexually active, it is safer to educate your child on measures against unpleasant aftermaths of adolescents’ escapades. Educating your adolescent about methods of safe sex can only help better in emergency preparedness against teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases, than the erroneous assumption of increased tendency to sexual activity if educated about condom and contraceptives. Take a minute to think about it- which is better? “To know and be safe” or “To know not and be sorry”.
Author: Taiwo Ayenuro