- What Teens Need from Adults
- By Barrington H. Brennen, September
Barrington H. Brennen
few weeks ago I wrote about raising the age of maturity from 18 to 20
because, according to research, adulthood does not really begin until in the
early 20s. I quoted Dr. Elizabeth Sowell, a member of a research team at
the University of California, Los Angeles. She said that “the evidence now
is strong that the brain does not cease to mature until the early 20s in
those relevant parts that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning for the
future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that make
people morally culpable.”
does this mean? Should we then excuse teens’ violent behavior? Am I
suggesting that society accepts violence as normal behavior among
teenagers? Certainly not! What is imperative here is that effective
parenting skills be utilized to help adolescents through the turbulent
Teenagers need parents, even if they do not think so. Note carefully that
teenagers become what they were taught earlier in life. There is a truth to
the saying, “Don’t blame it on the children.”
- WHAT DO TEENS
NEED FROM ADULTS?
- Here is a
non-exhaustive list of things teenagers need from adults (parents or
those who work with teenagers) as stated by Paul Kivel, one of the
United States leaders in dealing with violence and abuse in families.
Teenagers need adults who will:
openness, respect, trust, and cooperation.
information to assist them in life’s decisions.
intelligence at all times.
value teens’ fears
and problems as genuine.
not try to force
change on anyone.
judging (especially judgments about appearance), lecturing, attitude of
disrespect, or the attitude that one is “incorrect” or blameworthy for
what she/he believes at the present time.
recognize that small
steps and activities are important and need to be encouraged.
welcome and celebrate
making mistakes and be willing to risk and learn.
praise, praise, respect, respect.
NEED OUR TOUCH
- Perhaps one of
the greatest needs of teenagers is a daily, loving touch, from their
parents or significant others. It is the best medication to build the
teenage-family immune system against the evils of society. Parents,
when was the last time you touched your teenager in a loving, caring
way? Whether it is a hug, pat on the shoulder, squeeze, embrace,
teenagers are craving for a loving touch, even if they appear to be cold
or reluctant to do so. Most teenagers who are cold towards a touch are
that way because parents did not continue their touching through the
early growth years.
Virginia Satir, the late American psychotherapist, gives a simple formula to
the furtherance of the human race: "Four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs
for maintenance, twelve for growth." I recently read an article: “Can a hug
make teenagers less terrible?” by British writers, Richard Sadler and Martyn
McLaughlin, about teenage violence in Britain. It stated that “leading
sensory researchers said . . . we are losing touch with such simple maxims,
and warned that many of the nation's worst social problems—such as teenage
violence and anti-social behavior—are probably linked to our famous British
reserve and a lack of tactility between parents and children. We can
surely make the same observations in The Bahamas and the Caribbean. Our
teenagers need our loving touch. They are starving for a touch. It’s real!
article also states: "We are beginning to learn that touch starvation could
have dire consequences later in life, as well as adverse effects on health
and mental well being.”
another article, “A Hug a Day Keeps the Blues Away,” Peter Spalton, an
outstanding body language expert, shares why hugging is so important. He
states: ". . . hugging is a wonderful tonic. It makes you feel energized
and gives you an emotional boost . . . especially at this busy time of year
when many people are feeling the pressure. In fact, the medical evidence is
that a hug even makes your body produce more oxytocin, which is the 'feel
good' hormone. Research in America found that one 20-second hug a day makes
a big difference between how happy and relaxed we are. This is why people
in a healthy relationship are happier and feel less stressed.”
- CAUTION! WHERE
- Yes! I am very
serious about this. I believe that if there was much more purposeful,
loving touching in our society, we will have less violence. We need
more touching. We need more hugs. How do parents start touching in a
loving way their teenagers if they have not done so in years? Be aware
parents, if you start today trying to embrace your son or daughter and
you haven’t done it in years, you might be pushed away. They might
think you are weird. Take your time and be gentle. Take them out on a
date first. Do not touch them. The next time start with a gentle pat on
the shoulder and a positive comment. “I am proud of you.” “You look
nice in that color.” When you embrace your teenager for the first
time, start from the side with one of your hands pulling him or her to
your side. This is less intimidating. Frontal embraces may not go well
at first. You may get pushed away.
Before you embrace, let your rebellious teenager first feel the touch of
loving words on their hearts. It might take weeks to touching. Be
patient. As you begin to blend loving words with loving touches, you will
be amazed of the response and change in behavior. You will discover that
your cold, accusatory methods will diminish and be replaced with firm,
consistent advice, guidance, and care. Let’s stop the violence in our
community. Start giving a loving touch today. Our teenagers need that.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist, counseling
psychologist, nationally certified psychologist, USA. Send your questions
or comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 1-242 327 1980, or visit the
, or write P.O. Box CD-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas.