Adolescents constructing their own adolescence

Adolescents constructing their own adolescence

A 38-slide powerpoint presentation

This presentation is based on the fourth edition of my book “The nature of adolescence (2010), and on the ideas contained within it.

The major objective of the book is to highlight key areas of research that help us to better understand adolescent development. This presentation looks at three areas of research which I believe reflect what might be called a new research agenda.


Outline of the Herts “My Teen Brain” one day professional training

Outline of the Herts “My Teen Brain” one day professional training

9.00 – 9.45
Welcome, introductions, ground rules, objectives for the day

9.45 – 10.00
Exercise involving identifying typical teenage behaviour and exploring attitudes to young people

10.00 – 10.45
First presentation “Teenage brain development”. This covers:

  • A time of rapid development
  • The main changes in the brain
  • The technology of scanning
  • The hormone balance and sleep,
  • Context and individual differences.

10.45 – 11.00
Review and discuss implications for practice

11.00 – 11.15

11.15 – 11.30
Exercise looking at change in the teenage years, as experienced by adults and young people

11.30 – 12.00
Second presentation “The role of adults at a time of rapid brain development”

  • The STAGE framework – this is a critical period
  • The role of parents and other adults at this time of development
  • Language development and communication skills
  • The promotion of autonomy
  • Changing nature of the use of authority
  • Emotion regulation and the role of the brain

12.00 – 12.30
Exercises on communication and difficult emotions

12.30 – 1.15

1.15 – 1.45
Third presentation “Risk taking and risky behaviour”

  • What do we mean by risk?
  • Risk versus experimentation
  • Risk factors and their role in risky behaviour
  • What part does the brain play?
  • The role of family and peer group
  • How to reduce serious risk-taking

1.45 – 2.00                 
Exercise looking at a scenario involving risk-taking

2.00 – 2.15                  
Discussion concerning social media – risk or opportunity?

2.15 – 2.30

2.30 – 3.00
Fourth presentation “The brain and resilience”

  • Understanding resilience – risk and protective factors
  • The findings of longitudinal studies of resilience
  • What part does the brain play in assisting the development of resilience?
  • How to promote resilience in universal and targeted situations
  • Understanding a strengths-based approach
  • Take-home messages for practitioners

3.00 – 3.20
Exercise on resilience

3..20 – 3.40
Q & A session

3.40 – 4.00
Embedding the lessons of the day in practice. Plus evaluation and farewell.

Hertfordshire “My Teen Brain” project

Hertfordshire “My Teen Brain” project

Parents and teenagers need to be able to talk together. Yet in so many families this turns out to be a major problem. Parents feel the teenager won’t listen, and teenagers feel exactly the same: that their parents aren’t listening.

One 14 year-old girl put it like this:

“My parents expect me to tell them everything, but how can I when all they do is nag? Why haven’t you done this? Why haven’t you done that? That’s all they say.”

Why does this breakdown in communication occur?

Parents have the sense that the young person really prefers to talk to their friends. They feel that they, the parents, do not matter anymore. They feel rejected and pushed aside. They feel that the young person no longer has any respect for their opinions, and this is hard to take.

On the other hand the teenager feels that he or she is still being treated as a child. The parent does not want a conversation, but only wants to dig for information or tell the young person what to do.

It is not surprising that these misunderstandings lead to a situation where both sides feel irritated and frustrated with each other. What can we do about this?

I have recently written a book entitled: “Why won’t my teenager talk to me?” When I mentioned the title to a group of parents, one of them asked: “Well, what’s the answer then?”

Of course there are many different answers, but here are some thoughts.

  • Timing is critical. Your teenager won’t always talk at the time that is best for you;
  • Your teenager won’t talk about the things he or she considers to be private;
  • Interrogation doesn’t work. Your teenager won’t talk if he or she thinks conversation is going to turn into interrogation;
  • Your teenager won’t talk if he or she feels you are busy, distracted or likely to be interrupted.

All these are reasons why a young person might not talk, yet teenagers do want to talk to their parents. How can parents and teenagers learn to talk to each other?


Here are some top tips for parents.

First, parents of teenagers do matter. You matter hugely, it is just that you have a different role from the one you had during the early years. Parents matter because they provide the endorsement, the love and the structure that makes a young person feel safe and secure. Without this the teenager will be lost.

Secondly, teenagers do want to talk to their parents. They want to talk, and they will talk, but in a way that feels safe to them. This means the adult talking in a manner that makes the young person feel their views are respected. Good communication has to be a two-way street. Talking and listening go hand in hand.

Thirdly teenagers do need some privacy. They need space and time to sort things out in their own minds. This means they will talk to their parents, but not necessarily at the precise time that suits the adult.

In conclusion if you, as a parent, can step back and think about the needs of the teenager, communication will improve. You have a key role to play. If you can listen, your teenager will talk.