Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, your one-stop source for news about your son’s upcoming activities and events.

Weekly wellbeing links

Teen spirit. You’re either in the thick of it or headed straight for it.

A great place to begin your journey into understanding the teenage brain is this video by Dr. Dan Siegel that explains the essence of adolescence.

This link from The New Yorker is lengthy, but well worth the read. The article examines two different perspectives on the teen brain. One is from neurologist Frances Jensen, who argues “teens are not quite firing on all cylinders when it comes to the frontal lobes” and advises “you need to be your teens’ frontal lobes until their brains are fully wired.” The other is from psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, who disputes the “notion that adolescents take risks because they don’t know any better” and contends it’s all about the reward of dopamine. “Nothing — whether it’s being with your friends, having sex, licking an ice-cream cone, zipping along in a convertible on a warm summer evening, hearing your favorite music — will ever feel as good as it did when you were a teenager.”

I had the privilege of hearing Steinberg present at a conference, and I’ll ask you the same questions he asked the audience: Can you think back to a memory from your high school years? Is it pretty vivid and detailed? Now, can you remember what you did last Wednesday? Ouch, right? This is how he set up his argument for the power of dopamine in the teen years (it will never be as intense again) and why teens are at risk, especially when in the presence of peers, to “do so many stupid things” — often with lots of thought. You can read more on dopamine and decision making in the Atlantic article, “Dopamine and Teenage Logic,” by Siegel.

On that note, the New York Times article “Teens Do Dumb Things” is written by one of my all-time favourite psychologists, Lisa Damour. If you have a daughter, get Damour’s book Untangled, or borrow mine. Damour shares more about Steinberg’s research, as well as his thoughts on how we can support our kids.

If more strategies for helping your teen develop self-regulation are of interest, check out this guide from Harvard University: Regulating the Teenage Mind. It has some great suggestions as well as a link to a more detailed document for you to download.  Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center offers these tips to help your teen think beyond themselves.

To practice self-regulation and goal-setting with younger boys, you can try Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab strategy called WOOP.

Jensen, Steinberg and the findings of many other experts in teen brain development are included in the Maclean’s article “Inside Your Teenager’s Scary Brain.” What I find most compelling is how it highlights the vulnerability of this time of life. It’s important for us to remember that “behind the seemingly invincible teenage boy with the booming voice and adult body is a brain that is still incredibly vulnerable to everything from sports-related concussions to mental illness and addiction.”

If you didn’t already go down the rabbit hole of Siegel’s many videos, here’s one more I couldn’t resist including because of its optimistic tone: Opportunity.

And just to give you a throwback to being a teen: Nirvana — or, more my style, Alanis Morissette.

Thanks to those of you who requested links on this topic. Please feel free to email me with comments or questions at lfraser@ucc.on.ca.

Laurie Fraser, Character Program Director