Saving Today's Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience
Author: Michael J. Bradley
Pub Date: April 2017
Print Edition: $17.95
Print ISBN: 9780814438046
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814438053
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Neuroscience has changed just about everything in our understanding of the game of adolescence. Since 1991, when Dr. Jay Giedd (while at the National Institute of Mental Health) first warned us that your teenager's brain doesn't work very well, other researchers have produced stunning insights into how adolescent brains work (and don't work), revolutionizing neurological understanding of adolescence. Yet in the decades that followed, we seemed to be unable to apply that knowledge to make much of a dent in the suffering of our kids. In fact, as you'll see shortly, life for them in many ways is the worst it's been in the roughly 50 years that we've been collecting good data on teenagers.
Jay predicted a few of the causes when writing the Foreword to my first book in 2002. He had no idea of how amazingly future-smart he would be when he said:
While the biology of the teen brain probably hasn't changed much in the last few thousand years, the environment has changed tremendously. Teens today are faced with a dizzying array of choices, more potent and addictive drugs, and, through media and the Internet, far greater exposure to sexual material. Stone age impulses now have Computer Age temptations.
That mix of neurology, technology, and culture has proved to be a scary stress recipe that has grown substantially more powerful since Jay first described it. Our Computer Age has indeed created enormously powerful cultural changes that occur with amazing speed, leading to unprecedented stresses for our teens. They are clearly suffering as a result. But those of us who love them can respond in equally powerful ways to save them. I'm here to help you do just that by integrating our knowledge of teen neurology with that of teen resilience--two sciences that woven together can create an amazing body armor to protect the hearts of your children from the threats of their world.
I use a lot of military metaphors in my writing, which is more a product of my parenting experiences than my Army ones. Like Jim (the client I quoted in the Preface), I've found parenting teenagers to be the more challenging adventure. I've also found that military training is very helpful in meeting my parenting challenges. No joke. Because when the stuff hits the fan, both soldiers and parents work much smarter and better when guided by a clear, carefully thought out mission (an ultimate goal) supported by smart strategies (subgoals to fulfill that mission) achieved with specific tactics (what to do when). For CEOs, soldiers, teachers, and especially parents, those three elements help us to replace reflexive, destructive, and dangerous reactions (such as slapping her face when she f--ks you off) with new ones that are amazingly more powerful (such as walking away--just trust me on that one for now).
This organizational model helps us override our built-in parenting instincts that in a nanosecond can convince us that hurting her for being hurtful will be satisfying and effective. The problem is that hurting her can feel satisfying and seem to be effective, but only for that nanosecond. In the next, it can cause crippling parental remorse. It can also lead to World War III. So using the military model to organize our parenting helps casualty rates to go way down and mission success rates to soar.
But have you ever really thought about exactly what your mission should be? Probably not, which is a little scary since everything else we do as parents should be directed by a mission designed to meet contemporary challenges. Thus, Part I of this book is about defining a clear, overriding parenting mission developed by reviewing critical information on the challenges facing new millennium adolescents. The data will dictate that goal. They will also help you to be empathetic with your kid, which is hard to do if you think you already know what it's like to be a teen in today's world. You don't. Even if you were a teen only 20 years ago, you still don't know. Having fewer facial wrinkles--that is, being relatively young--can even make you more inclined to screw things up because you assume that you do know your kid's experience, and then you further assume that you know exactly what your teen should do in those circumstances. Mother Nature bestows minor dementia upon the older among us so we're better able to say, "I forget what it's like to be a teenager. Please tell me." That turns out to be a very smart thing to say to your kid.
Part I of this book gives you a tour of teenagers' world, including the neuroscience of their brains (which often don't work so well), the astounding impact of their technology (which works all too well), and the crazy world around them (which works frighteningly well at promoting unwell behaviors). If scary movies are not your thing, perhaps you should not read Part I just before bedtime.
Part II gets hopeful. It starts by defining your critical strategies or subgoals--assets your kid needs not only to survive his adolescence but to flourish throughout it by building a near-magical skill called resilience, something we always find in teens who do well. Part II then supplies you with the specific tactics you need to accomplish those resilience-building strategies. The really wonderful news about resilience is that it is not just a genetic trait but rather something that can be built in all kids to lead them to wonderful lives in spite of temporary craziness. If you are focused only upon the goal of surviving your kid's teen years, be careful about shortchanging your aspirations especially in the tough times. If you ask little of yourself and your child, that's likely what you're going to get. Better to plan for the worst but work for the best. Resilience-focused parenting works really well for teens who are already doing well, but surprisingly to many, it works even better for kids who are struggling terribly.
Part III then puts it all together with down and dirty, what-to-do-when parenting suggestions--scripts that use the neurologic, cultural, and resilience science you'll get in earlier chapters to create smart resilience-building responses to the specific challenges that often cause explosions in families with teens. But do not flip ahead to those chapters. In the military, that would be like skipping boot camp to go directly to SEAL school. It ain't gonna work. You must understand the basic principles to skillfully use these tools, and more important, to tailor them to the challenges of your particular kid. That knowledge will give you the confidence and motivation you'll need to accomplish the most demanding and fulfilling job you'll ever do.
Excerpted from CRAZY-STRESSED: Saving Today's Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience by Michael J. Bradley, Ed.D. Copyright © 2017 by Michael J. Bradley. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.
All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.
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