Teenager wellbeing: What every teenager needs to know to live well
- Published on Wednesday, 17 July 2019 14:35
- Last Updated on 17 July 2019
- Monica Costa
A few weeks ago I attended a very interesting conference on teenage wellbeing run by the CCMH (the Centre for child mental health). My favourite presentation by CCMH founder Dr Margot Sunderland who covered all important elements of what teenagers need to know to live well.
She shed some light into the teenage brain and provided clear guidelines for teachers and parents on how to support adolescents during a difficult time in their development to make them more resilient to face the challenges that life will throw at them.
PSHE in schools has not been taught properly until now (it will become Statutory from 2020) and the proof is that the suicide rate among teenagers is going up.
As parents we need to be aware that the Teenager’s brain is under construction, is not fully developed yet, specifically the frontal lobes which are the parts of the brain that make us more human, and linked to the highest human qualities, empathy, reflection, concern and compassion.
Teenagers show impulsivity which contributes to their inability to regulate the lack of compassion for others. A famous example of this is Romeo & Juliet (age 13) who met, fell in love and after 4 days were both dead.
Teenagers are socially inept and often insensitive because the part of the brain linked to sensitivity and empathy is still forming. They show increased novelty-seeking behaviour – they love loud music, risky adventures – but they have immature frontal lobes so they are unable to assess risk properly.
Teenagers facing painful situations just try to stop the pain hence they choose suicide as a way out. We need to teach them that there are alternatives to self-harm.
In our brain we all have the so-called emotion chemicals like our own finest drugstore available at the cheapest cost to produce happy drugs (serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, oxytocin) naturally.
Other alternatives that can trigger oxytocin include: putting ice cubes to the wrists, going for a run, a warm bath.
Teenagers also need positive examples such as other teenagers who have gone through similar things. For highly anxious teenagers, creating good relationships and attachments to others triggers anti-anxiety neuro-chemicals (opioids and oxytocin) in the brain. As a result, they no longer need cannabis to calm down. They would feel attracted to them and offered them at clubs and festivals. We cannot tell teenagers not to use drugs but we can teach them to do it safely. Counselling service Tell Frank offer wonderful resources to teenagers and parents about drugs.
To make informed decisions, We need to give teenagers messages on long-term dependency on drugs and alcohol by showing them facts and brain scans.
Social media platforms are alluring to teenagers like a siren song (’come to me’) but are bad for mental health. On social media, you see others’ lifestyles and you want always more and never feel satisfied with their own lives. Teenagers experience cyber bullying, FoMo (fear of missing out), rejection and feel the social pain of waiting for more ‘likes’. It’s like opium withdrawal.
40% of girls who spend more than 5 hours per day on social media show signs of depression.
I love a quote by Abhijit Nashar:
“Pay attention to humans, not to your phone”.
Parent modelling is a good starting point!
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums