Effective communication can be exceedingly challenging and complex. It may even be impossible at times. The inability to communicate effectively with a child can be extremely frustrating and difficult for any parent to accept. That is the nature of parenting. The joy of parenting comes from meeting and overcoming the myriad of challenges presented. The obligation of parenting requires that we use our best efforts to overcome those challenges.
The human brain is a complex mechanism, and human beings are complex creatures. For a variety of reasons, not all attempts at communication are successful.
Barriers to communication can even be physiological. Jay N. Giedd, chair of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, wrote an article entitled “The Amazing Teen Brain,” which appeared in the June 2015 issue of Scientific American.
In this article, he explains that teenagers are more likely than children or adults to engage in risky behavior. Part of this is due to a mismatched development between two major regions of the brain. Giedd explains that development of the limbic system, which drives emotions, intensifies as puberty begins (between ages 10 to 12), and the system matures over the next several years. The brain’s prefrontal cortex controls impulsive actions. It does not approach full development until a decade later.
Essentially, this means that from ages 12 until 25, teens are emotionally propelled by the limbic system while the prefrontal cortex, which is required to manage and control their emotional impulses, is not fully developed. That leaves a decade of imbalance between emotional and contemplative thinking. At times, this mismatch in the brain’s regional development can cause teenagers to make poor decisions.
An important video on the teenage brain is “The Neuroanatomical Transformation of the Teenage Brain” by Jill Bolte Taylor, delivered at [email protected]on February 21, 2013. You can find it on YouTube.com.
Understanding the physiological limitations of the teenage brain is important for parents who are trying to understand and cope with their teenagers’ impulsive actions and poor choices. Being aware of these physiological limitations is equally important for teens, as they try to understand their emotions and avoid making poor choices.
Additional physiological limitations can also impact communication. Under certain circumstances, when people of any age are under severe emotional distress, the region of the brain responsible for emotion releases the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals can impair cognitive performance and interfere with the brain’s ability to process logical information. When someone is under severe stress, the release of these chemicals can actually prevent the logical part of the brain from functioning properly.
Therefore, if children are angry, depressed, or emotionally erratic, their ability to process logical information may actually be physiologically impaired. If we can learn to wait for these emotions, caused by stress to subside, we can facilitate more effective communication.
Parents need to be alert to this issue. If your child is upset or highly emotional, that is one of the worst times to try and talk to them. Getting angry yourself, makes effective communication even less likely.
In order to increase the likelihood of effective communication, you need emotional empathy. You need to recognize and address the emotional needs of others as well as your own. When you are trying to reach someone with a logical argument, understand that you are least likely to do so when either or both of you are upset.
We also need to be alert to the possibility of mental illness. One out of three people suffer from some form of mental illness. Severe and prolonged difficulties in communication can be a sign of mental illness. The social stigma often associated with mental illness can sometimes cause parents to fail to recognize or accept the fact that their child may be suffering from a mental illness. Parents want the best for their children. As a result, they can be slow to acknowledge or accept the fact that their child may have serious mental or emotional problems or limitations. They may even ignore warnings from teachers and counselors out of fear that their child may be held back or fail to progress in school. This is a mistake. In some cases, it is a mistake that can have tragic consequences.
If you are having serious difficulty communicating with your children and if the information contained in Seize Your Destiny does not help you to communicate with them more effectively, then seek professional help. Meet with school counselors. Ask them to refer you to community agencies that may be able to provide you with help and guidance.
Get your children the counseling and professional assistance they need. As a parent, you have a responsibility to provide your children with the medical care that they require. Sickness can be mental and/or physical. Both require treatment. Ignoring, rationalizing, or failing to acknowledge serious mental health problems and early warning signs does a disservice to your child and may place your entire family and the community at risk.
We all need to understand the importance and the challenges of communication. We all need to be more verbal and to substitute verbal communication for aggressive physical approaches. We all need to learn how to express ourselves and communicate our thoughts, feelings, and ideas more clearly. We all need to learn how to actively listen and observe.
We all communicate verbally and nonverbally. However, not all of us communicate effectively. People who communicate effectively find that their communication skills often lead to success. Those who do not communicate effectively find that their poor communication skills can lead to misunderstandings and failure. Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s also about understanding the emotions behind the information.