I am so excited to be reading Dan Siegel’s ‘Brainstorm: The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain’   Unfortunately I’m reading it very slowly in small bites and I have his No Drama Discipline Book (written with Tina Payne Bryson) waiting invitingly by my bedside too but hopefully this bite size reading means more concepts will sink in?   His earlier book ‘The Whole Brain Child’ (see earlier blog) with Tina Payne Bryson  is one of the best I’ve read for relating latest brain & mindfulness research to parenting! http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/the_whole_brain_child/

So the first bit of this Brainstorm book is inspiring because it’s saying how amazing the teenage brain is, and that if focussed in a positive way it can be a really powerful, healthy and fantastic thing.  In fact he even states that a mid-life crisis is often the adult seeking a bit of what drives adolescence, an interesting concept and something that rings true for me at the moment!

Dan Siegel’s way of looking at the essence of a teenage brain (page 11 of the book) is:

ES Emotional Spark: intense emotional feelings which can serve to create meaning and vitality

SE Social Engagement: important connections with others that can be meaningful and mutually rewarding

N    Novelty: we seek and create new experiences that engage our senses fully and in new and challenging ways

CE Creative Exploration: the expanded consciousness that creates a gateway to seeing the world in a new way

So parenting a teenager doesn’t need to be a fearful or difficult thing, instead it is a matter of understanding the needs of a teenage brain and finding ways for our teenagers to experience meaningful social engagement in novel, emotionally intense and creative ways!

Thinking back to my adolescence, probably the most powerful experience was going on the Leeuwin Sail Training ship for 10 days where we were taught how to sail a three masted barquentine, 1850’s style rig with a crew of 40 people aged 14-25 with team building and leadership exercises thrown in!  This fulfilled all 4 of the criteria above and was a really intense and novel experience where I learnt more about myself and others than I ever had at school!     In a way perhaps this was an informal  rite of passage….    Dr Arne Rubinstein talks about this in his ‘Making of Men’ book http://doctorarne.com/

But Dan Siegel is saying this isn’t just important in a rite of passage but within the teenager’s life and as parents we can help to facilitate this in a positive, healthy and empowering way and NOT let teenagers seek out the novelty, exploration, intense emotions and friendships in a negative, disempowering or deconstructive way!

I can see this with my own teenagers when they put these criteria to positive use it is incredible what they can create, think about, plan and inspire…..and in my stage of life I can see that I would benefit from some increased novelty, creativity and intense emotions!!!!   What I also see in my work is parents who don’t yet allow for these brain changes, who still treat their teenagers as if they are under the age of 12, who don’t allow for this new sense of independence and new push for freedom and that seems to be where the BIG battles lie…..?

So I’ll keep reading and leave you with this initial insight….as always a good reminder for me and I’ll write more as it comes to light! 🙂

Brainstorm by Dan Siegel

SE Social Engagement

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