As we come into another school holiday, arguments about ‘getting outside’ or ‘doing something useful’ will bounce around the walls of homes of teenagers everywhere.
The joy of ‘school’s out!’ can quickly turn into boredom without the structured schedules of school. This often creates increased stress for parents who just don`t know what to do to keep them busy, and frustration, ‘why do they laze around so much?’.
The adolescent brain is undergoing a remodelling; one such change is the dopamine base levels. Dopamine is our “happy” neurotransmitter. The more of it we have the happier we feel. It is one of the neurotransmitters that is released when we do something exciting or that feels good. In the adolescent brain, the dopamine baseline is lower than in adults or young children, meaning they are more likely to be bored, listless and/or unmotivated.
It also takes more to get that dopamine release, but when they do have it, the amount of dopamine released is higher than in the adult brain. Meaning the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Quite the inconvenient combination!!
What’s a parent to do? A few things that may help get you started these holidays.
Screen the screens
Do everything you can to keep screen time to a healthy dose. A lot of screen time creates exciting, rewarding experiences. This triggers the abovementioned higher highs of dopamine which inevitably then leads to a crash to the lower lows. This up/down cycle can be hard to manage for a yet-to-be-adult without fully developed higher order thinking and mastery of self-control. Be empowered and set screen limits to level out the dopamine hits.
Find their wavelength
I remember my mum telling me ‘íf you’re bored, it’s your own fault’. You were a teenager once, and you were hopelessly bored too. Listen to your child and empathise, that feeling of validation can go a loooong way.
Know thine enemy
Stress if the enemy of dopamine. It can cause your teenager’s dopamine levels to plunge and strongly decrease their will and motivation. The adolescent brain is more sensitive to stress so we need to help inoculate as best we can from elevated levels of stress.
Don’t call them lazy
They may be unmotivated, but laziness is a different kettle of fish. Even if you’re convinced they are, calling them that will just make them feel unworthy ☹
We’d love to give you more tips, tricks and practical strategies for being a calmer and more confident parent of your fabulous teenager. Our ONLINE COURSE is live on 30th September, mark it in your diary!