A tool kit is circulating around Homer that ought to be useful for parents, educators and anyone trying to relate to today’s teens. It’s not a standard tool kit – no screw drivers or hammers, but it does contain tools useful for understanding and nurturing teens.
Written by Linda Chamberlain, the tool kit is being distributed by the R.E.C. Room, a place for youth education and recreation. Chamberlain is an epidemiologist specializing in childhood exposure to violence and brain development and she is known for her ability to translate science into practical information with diverse audiences. She is in the forefront on topics that research is only now fully piecing together about the human brain, healing from trauma and adolescent brain development. Homer is lucky to have an expert of her standing on call in the community.
Such was the case with creating the tool kit, “The Amazing Adolescent Brain,” that can be picked up at the R.E.C. Room. Chamberlain came together with another group in town on the forefront of new endeavors, the Promoting Health Among Teens program directed by Anna Meredith and Doug Koester. Chamberlain presented the information about adolescent brain development to the teens. Now it’s part of Promoting Health Among Teens Comprehensive Abstinence and Safer Sex Intervention or PHAT’s mission to spread the information to other teens. And, now, the community has access to the kit called “The Amazing Adolescent Brain.”
Think of how brain development gives a wonderful framework for discussing painful or emotional topics with teens like healthy relationship advice, how to react when peers drink or use drugs, what to do in the face of sexual pressures. The PHAT teens, Zoe Story, Dylan Wylde, Hailey Hughes, Trevor Waldorf and Sierra Moskios, all did an excellent job of enlivening the how-to discussion through skits and discussion.
Separate from the PHAT peer education trainings, the tool kit aims to give advice for specific action to parents and educators of teens.
Here are some examples, that hopefully will interest a larger public in finding out more:
The adolescent brain is still learning to sort and prioritize. For this reason, the advice is to avoid giving teens complex directions. Here’s a suggestion for how not to do it: “Read two chapters, write a brief response, don’t forget to study for your unit test and have your parents sign here.”
A better way: Help teens devise systems instead. A way to manage time, organize tasks and identify priorities causes greater productivity.
Adolescents need healthy and caring adults in their lives to provide a supporting environment because this is a brief window of opportunity. Adolescence, thankfully you might say, doesn’t last long. It is a time of chaos and conflict, emotional peaks and valleys. It’s a time when teens take risks and break rules.
But, Chamberlain tells us, adults can take an active role in creating opportunities for teens to practice making good decisions.
The saying “nature saves the best for last,” is used to describe the incredible, amazing brain work unfolding in the second decade of a young life – rather than the first decade. She encourages people to support teens in practical ways to take on positive risks in the face of hormonal and chemical changes in the brain.
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