DAY 8 - RESPONSIBILITY


Responsibility is identified as the state or fact of having to deal with something, or of having control over someone. It relates to authority, power, control, leadership, influence, management and duty.

As parents we have responsibility over our teens. I like to understand it in terms that we hold a LEADERSHIP POSITION OF INFLUENCE - where we have a DUTY to PROTECT, ENCOURAGE, EDUCATE, MOTIVATE and INSPIRE those in our care.

As role models we must also use the control we have, with sensitivity and common sense - ie AUTHORITY is only something that is effective when we gain the respect and trust of the other person. Without that, our position can be seen as manipulative, intimidating, undermining, or bullying. This is a hard role to play and there are no straightforward answers for any of us sadly. What works for one child will not necessarily work for another!

On the two extreme ends of the teen spectrum we have those that cause chaos at home, in school and in their neighbourhoods. Alcohol, drugs, violence, lack of respect and a 'care-less' attitude often result in their own self destruction.

By contrast at the other end of the spectrum low self esteem, self harm, eating disorders, identity crisis etc are as equally destructive of family life and hard to witness.

So how on earth can we possibly get it right?

The first key is to acknowledge that not only do we as parents carry responsibility but so do our teens. WE have parental duty of responsibility and our teens need to be given responsibility to enable them to mature.

The important factor in getting the balance right and knowing what they need to 'be responsible for' is to understand how their brains work.

Research during the past 10 years, powered by technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, has revealed that young brains have both fast-growing synapses and sections that remain unconnected. This leaves teens easily influenced by their environment and more prone to impulsive behaviour, even without the impact of hormones and any genetic or family predispositions.

Frances E. Jensen, a professor of neurology at the Harvard Medical School, explains that teen brains are proven to be more susceptible than their adult counterparts to alcohol-induced toxicity. He highlights an experiment in which rat brain cells were exposed to alcohol, which blocks certain synaptic activity. When the alcohol was washed out, the adult cells recovered while the adolescent cells remained “disabled.” And because studies show that marijuana use blocks cell signaling in the brain, Jensen makes the point that what your teen did on the weekend is still with them during their test 4 days later. "They’ve been trying to study with a self-induced learning disability.”

Similarly, even though there is evidence that sleep is important for learning and memory, teenagers are notoriously sleep-deprived. Studying right before bedtime can help cement the information under review, Jensen notes. So can aerobic exercise, which reveals the importance of physical-education opportunities and sports activity.

Teens are also bombarded by information in this electronic age, and multitasking is as routine as chatting with friends on line. But Jensen highlights a recent study showing how sensory overload can hinder undergraduates’ ability to recall words. “It’s truly a brave new world. Our brains, evolutionarily, have never been subjected to the amount of cognitive input that’s coming at us,” she says. “You can’t close down the world. All you can do is educate kids to help them manage this.” Programmes aimed therefore at preventing risky adolescent behaviors would be more effective if they offered practical strategies for making in-the-moment decisions, rather than merely lecturing teens about the behaviors themselves.

By understanding brain dev