Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens

More on “Getting to Calm”…

The concept of “getting to calm” is not merely about settling thorny situations, as desirable as that is for families. Rather, it pertains to a new mindset — tied to recent discoveries about teen brain development and human emotions — that helps parents make good decisions and raise thriving teens. This book explains why the first step for effective parenting is “getting to calm,” and includes techniques and approaches not only for achieving calmness but for striking gold in the teen-parent relationship.

Neuro-imaging techniques developed over the last decades have provided us with astounding discoveries regarding brain changes during adolescence. We now know, for example, that the emotional reactivity, impulsivity and risk taking of the teen years are directly associated with the neural remodeling process that begins around 12 or 13 years of age. Technology has allowed us to track brain wiring and observe how the emotional centers of teens’ brains can hijack their thinking process under certain circumstances. Studies of the human brain can also illuminate why we adults may lose our tempers during volatile times when our kids push our buttons. Even with our fully mature brains, fear, anxiety and anger can derail our reasoning skills and our best intentions to communicate effectively with our teens. Instead of dealing with teens under the influence of highly charged emotions — ours and theirs — we need to modify our approach and calmly access our “thinking” brains. In other words, we choose and deploy cool-headed strategies for connecting with, disciplining and influencing our teens. Having high standards for teen conduct remains important, but parents who become informed about the teen brain and human emotions are in a stronger position to raise healthy, high functioning tweens and teens.

Focusing on the parent-teen relationship, Getting to Calm includes a series of scripts that bring family realities to life. Side notes explain exactly why parents in some scripts make good moves that enhance relationships and effectiveness. Other parents head down the wrong road, and the notes clarify where and how these common mistakes occur. Getting to Calm weaves information about adolescent development and family dynamics with some of the latest findings on human biology to explain why teens do the things they do, why parents often trip up in their responses and, in light of it all, how to bring out the best in teens and ourselves.

Getting to Calm is organized so that parents can turn to the material they need in a bad moment. Each chapter provides parents with the necessary tools to rectify a specific problem, but the process of achieving a calm mindset is best understood by reading this book from beginning to end. It’s also important to note what is not in this book. Some families will face severe turmoil and extremely tough problems with their teens, with issues such as depression, eating disorders and substance addiction. Unlike the more typical 14 challenges covered in Getting to Calm, these disorders are clinical matters that require professional intervention. Likewise, there are vital issues that impact how we parent our children, such as culture, ethnicity, socio-economic status and divorce. Crucial in determining any adolescent’s experience and development, these highly complex issues can be better addressed by more specialized sources. Though they may not always feel it, parents should be assured that they are important in their adolescent’s life — and also more influential than their teen may ever let on. Nature provides teens with a built-in thrust for independence, which helps them become competent enough to leave the nest ultimately. But it also produces all the messy behaviors that are covered in Getting to Calm. These situations trigger intense interactions and moments when even the best of parents may lose their bearings. Despite the occasional lapse, if we can operate from a place of calm most of the time, we are demonstrating to our teens the emotional skills they will need to be successful in their own lives.

By “getting to calm” we are in a better position to choose the strategies that will see us through the toughest times of the tween and teen years. And most importantly, by staying level-headed, credible and connected with our kids, we enhance a cherished relationship that holds families in good stead well beyond the teen years.