Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gender Brain Differences, 2

Females tend to connect with others through a conversation about emotions and feelings even before they actually become involved in an activity (e.g., how their day went, problems that cropped up, their feelings). Males tend to connect with others through jokes and teasing and find it easier to discuss facts (e.g., the weather, the stock market, the latest vehicle recall, and what happened with the latest vehicle or plane crash). They find it more difficult to verbalize emotions and feelings. What’s the take away? Know that your female friends will likely be comfortable talking about how they “feel” about something that has happened to them or that is going on in the world at the moment. Your male friends, on the other hand, likely will not and are more likely to be more comfortable talking about things, and data, and sharing jokes or teasing. Remember, females, most males rarely spend the time and energy teasing someone they really don’t like or sharing jokes with them. So if they tell you a joke or tease you (appropriately, of course), recognize they are trying to connect with you.  Part 3 tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brain Gender Differences

Did you know that Connectome studies have identified more than 100 “connection differences” between male and female brains? Misunderstood, these differences often lead to frustration, miscommunication, and even conflict. For example, males often want to “do” relationships rather than “talk them out.” Two males can spend the day doing an activity together (e.g., biking, hiking, fishing) and say little, if anything, to each other verbally. And when they get home, both perceive they had a great day. Females on the other hand, connect through conversation and just “doing” an activity without any conversation seems somehow less satisfying. What’s the take away? If females are with other females, there will likely be a lot of verbal conversation. When males are with other males, there will likely be very little verbal conversation. When a male and a female are doing something together, the male needs to converse more than he would if with another male, while the female needs to not expect as much conversation as she would have with another female. Part 2 tomorrow.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Parenting the Adolescent Brain, 5

There is a myth that adolescents need less sleep than they did during their younger years. False. Teenagers need nine or ten hours of sleep every night. Most are sleep deprived. They can become increasingly cognitively impaired across the week, even though sleep is thought to be critical for the reorganization of the teen brain. Sleep deprivation tends to exacerbate moodiness and cloudy or erratic decision-making. Part of the problem can be laid at the feet of early bussing and class schedules. Part of the problem involves a shift in circadian rhythms during adolescence. Teenagers do better when they stay up later and get up later. They often stay up later but still have to get up earlier, which contributes to sleep deprivation—and the results of sleep deprivation can be ugly. Sara Johnson, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who reviewed the neuroscience in The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development by Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard, encourages parents to continue to parent their adolescents. Like all children, "teens have specific developmental vulnerabilities and they need parents to limit their behavior," she said. The good news is as the brain develops, the opportunity for parents and children to become good friends, also can emerge.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Parenting the Adolescent Brain, 4

What can parents do to not only survive themselves but to help the adolescents under their care survive and thrive? Avoid taking their somewhat erratic behaviors personally. Over the course of adolescence, the limbic system comes under greater control of the prefrontal cortex, the area just behind the forehead, which is associated with planning, impulse control and higher order thought. As additional areas of the brain begin to help process emotion, older teens gain some equilibrium and have an easier time interpreting others. But until then, they often misread teachers and parents. According to the author of Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress, Sheyl Feinstin, "You can be as careful as possible and you still will have tears or anger at times because they will have misunderstood what you have said.” One of the most influential ways to parent your teen, in addition to being a good listener, is to be a good role model, especially when dealing with stress and other life difficulties, as teens are actively trying to figure out their own coping strategies. Your adolescent is watching YOU. And what about sleep? Part 5 tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Parenting the Adolescent Brain, 3

In her book Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress, Sheyl Feinstin explains that adolescents are beginning to develop the computational and decision-making skills that will characterize adulthood, if they are given time and access to information. Unfortunately (often for parents and teachers if not the adolescents themselves) in the heat of the moment, the decision-making of the teenagers can be overly influenced by emotions, because their brains rely more on the limbic system (the emotional seat of the brain) than the more rational prefrontal cortex. They are often dramatic and irrational. They yell or cry for seemingly no reason. They have often conflicting needs for tender loving care and for greater independence, which can make parenting a challenge. The adolescents need individuals with the more stable adult brain (parents, teachers, mentors, and older family members) to help them by staying calm, listening and being good role models. It is not about the adult (assuming they are being rational and functional); it is about the erratic development of the teen-age brain. Teens still need parents and effective parenting. a teen no longer needs parents (even if they protest otherwise). They still need structure and guidance and look to these adults for that (even if it appears they are not observing them). Feinstin says that the parent who “decides to treat a 16 or 17 year old as an adult is behaving unfairly and setting them up for failure." Part 4 tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parenting the Adolescent Brain, 2

According to Sheryl Feinstein, author of Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress,  just as adolescents may go through an awkward growth spurt, new cognitive skills and competencies may come in leaps and stutters. No matter how tall they have grown or how grown-up they try to dress, the teenage brain is still in a developmental period that will affect the rest of their life. It is possible to survive this; most parents have. Scientists used to think that it was only babies who had an overabundance of neuronal connections, which are pruned into a more efficient arrangement over the first three years of life. Not so. Brain imaging studies, such as one published in 1999 in Nature Neuroscience, have shown that a second burst of neuronal sprouting happens right before puberty, peaking at about age eleven for girls and twelve for boys. Again there will be a pruning and shaping of this new gray matter, shaped by the adolescent's experiences. Loosely following a ‘use it or lose it’ strategy, the structural reorganization is thought to continue until age twenty-five, with smaller changes continue throughout life. Part 3 tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Parenting the Adolescent Brain, 1

Do you live with a teenager? It can be a roller coaster ride. Fun, exciting, and a bit stressful—even for those who love roller coasters. Take heart, there is a reason and it has to do with the brain. After the first few years of life, the brain’s most dramatic growth spurt occurs during the teen-age years—often loosely defined as age eleven to nineteen (although I have met some brains who were much older than nineteen that seemed still to be exhibiting some adolescent irascibility, defined as a tendency to irritability, persisting bad moods, and sudden fits of anger). Yes, the brain “continues to change throughout life, but there are huge leaps in development during adolescence,’ according to Sara Johnson, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who reviewed the neuroscience in The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development by Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard.
Part 2 tomorrow.