The Teenage Brain and "Adult Amnesia"

Are parents super selective in their memory recall such that they don't remember poor decisions they made when they were teenagers?

Shirley, Denver, CO

Shirley,

It sure does seem like every generation of adults puts their hands on their hips, shakes their heads, and sighs a collective "Kids these days!" While there are certainly new challenges young people face specific to the 21st century, every generation of teenagers has struggled to navigate the exhilarating, rocky, challenging, and rewarding path through adolescence.

I call the forgetfulness that afflicts us parents "adult amnesia." It seems that the older we get the more difficult it becomes to remember what it was like to have a teenage brain. Even the most mild-mannered kids pose difficulties for their parents, from needing to stock the pantry to meet their growth spurts to figuring out what to do when they sleep until noon. 

For the parents raising adolescents who take a more volatile course to adulthood, the situations that arise—dangerous accidents, teen drinking, drug use, and run-ins with the police, to name a few—can inspire hair-pulling anger and head-shaking bewilderment.  Adults talk about each new generation of teens as evidence that the world is falling apart.

“I would never have done that when I was her age,” we parents think.  Maybe you wouldn’t have, but a few of your friends probably did.  Insolence and door slamming are not new inventions.  The world is not getting worse; it’s staying exactly the same.  Adults and adolescents have always had their difficulties getting along with one another.

This doesn't mean that we excuse poor behavior. Just as we relied on our parents to care enough to outline the boundaries of our budding independence, we owe the same to our kids. That said, lamenting the downfall of the next generation isn't serving anyone. Because amidst the frustrating behavior and confusing decisions our kids make, lies the wisdom, passion, voice, and energy that make youth incredible assets to our families and communities. We wouldn't want to miss out on that.

Here are my tips to combat “adult amnesia.”