Stereotypes about teens are in no short supply in today’s world. Although the exact image may vary a bit by culture, the teen years are generally thought to be ones of strife, disobedience, identity confusion, and overall unpleasantness. Is this image really accurate? Are the teen years to be dreaded by parents worldwide? Looking behind the stereotype, we find a more complex and nuanced image of teenagers. You might be surprised at what lies beneath the fascinating developmental phase of adolescence.

Myth #1: Teens are Self-absorbed

We hear this myth often about the time teens begin to take more of an interest in their appearance. Parents often find that their teens spend longer getting ready for the day than they do, with new hairstyles and finding just the “right” clothes for school. While it is true that teens have a new level of self-consciousness during this phase, it does not necessarily mean they are self-absorbed.

What’s really going on? 

During adolescence, teens’ brains change rapidly. This means that they are gaining new cognitive skills, such as a greater capacity for abstract thought and self-reflection. However, their brains are not fully developed, so they sometimes lack the ability to differentiate their own preoccupation with their thoughts and feelings from those of others. In other words, they may feel that others are as preoccupied with their thoughts or appearance as they are. Therefore, they may appear to be self-absorbed when, in reality, they are simply subject to an error in thinking. 

Myth #2: Teens Don’t Want to Spend Time With Parents or Family

The idea that teens don’t want to be around their parents very much of the time is perhaps one of the most common myths about adolescents. While we do see a definite shift in how teens spend their time, they still really do want (and need) time with their parents. 

What’s really going on?

During adolescence, teens’ friend relationships begin to take a greater priority in their lives. This shift is typical of this stage of development. A major developmental task of adolescence is to gain independence from parents. While this process will take years, teens will begin to spend more time with friends as part of this transition.

However, this doesn’t mean that parents are no longer important or needed. Although they are quite mature in some ways, teens are not yet adults and still need support and guidance. In fact, many teens really do want to spend time with their parents (even if they don’t readily admit it). Surveys show that over half of American teens say they’d like to spend more time with their parents. The key to managing this stage of development is to help your teen find a balance between family time and friend time. Having open discussions about balancing their time and recognizing their need for independence can help teens be more content with family time. 


Myth #3: Teens Have Poor Sleep Habits

It’s not difficult to see why this myth has become so common in parenting circles. We see stereotypical images of teen sleep habits in movies and photos all over the media. While it is true that teens’ sleep habits change during adolescence, this change is not all due to their choice.

What’s really going on?

During adolescence, teens’ circadian rhythms (those that control sleep) shift in a fairly significant way. They tend to fall asleep later at night and need to sleep in later in the morning. This means that your child, who once could easily fall asleep by 8 p.m., is now struggling to fall asleep at 10 p.m. This shift is part of the adolescent brain changes that are influencing so much of your teen’s behavior. 

The problems arise when a teen’s sleep habits (controlled by their brains) do not match up well with their social and academic responsibilities. For example, although teens find it difficult to wake up early, many high schools have very early start times. This combination often makes for sleep-deprived teens in many cases. This can often explain how the stereotype of the sleepy (and grumpy) teen emerges. Teens actually need at least nine hours of sleep a night, but in many cases, find it almost impossible to get.

Much of the stereotypical image of teens today results from a simple misunderstanding about the changes adolescents are experiencing. Many of the myths about teens’ behavior are not solely due to their choices but due to their dramatic brain changes. Understanding these changes can give you insight into your teen’s life and behavior.

Preview Blurb: Want to pull back the curtain and see what’s really going on inside your teen’s brain? New research is giving us new insights into adolescent brain development and its influence on their behavior. Using this information, we can dispel many of the common myths about teens and their sometimes erratic behavior. Click through to learn more about this fascinating phase of adolescent development.

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.

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