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Friday, November 13 • 18:00 - 18:15
RACE HORSE or ARTIC TERN ~ Do adolescents today seek exceptional achievement or are they future pathfinders on unique journeys in an upside down world?

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Each generation raises their children to attain success via social and academic achievements that lead to notable career attainments and financial security. College-educated parents set a high bar for their offspring. Career and financial success are usually intertwined. Get kids into prestigious schools. Expect them to excel in everything. The race is on. But, wait. Not all kids are thoroughbreds – valiant, strong, fast. In reality the journey from adolescence to adulthood is long and unpredictable. Like the artic tern, growing up in today’s world calls for patience, persistence and foresight for the long haul.

First, let’s drop the expectation that kids need to excel in everything. It's a stressful assumption from the perspective of a 12- or 15-year-old. When do we allow kids to get to know themselves? Or, to find out what inspires them? Is their curiosity honored or ignored? Can they explore and create in the arena of current interests or must they master an endless stream of rigorous courses foisted on them during the formative adolescent years?

RACE HORSE or ARTIC TERN explores four themes that clarify the journey of young adolescents on their personal passages into early adulthood.

First, young adolescents thrive on engagement and challenge but not on strictly “adult-generated” conditions. Their engagement mindset is strong. It’s also dynamic so that inquiry and curiosity can flourish. If they need adult support, they’ll let us know!

Second, young adolescents have a strong need for status and respect, especially from adults. Long before they can legally drive a car, they’ll challenge adult rules and reasons.  Sometimes adolescent logic is flawed but they are emerging logicians who need to practice. They are easily offended by bossy know it all adults so take time to respect their ideas by listening intently. 

Third, peer influence is powerful and pervasive. Do teens exert pressure on each other to take risks using alcohol and drugs? Yes, of course, but some peer pressure is positive – deciding to take advanced courses together or joining an after school club. As parents and educators, sometimes we need to get out of their way. Can young adolescents influence peers to NOT use tobacco or to help reduce or prevent bullying? Indeed they can and will, if we let them. Most 13-to-15-year olds are more receptive to positive messages from peers than they are to the same ideas presented by “know-it-all adults.”

Fourth, puberty is a life-changing catalyst that propels adolescents into adulthood. Paradoxically, the risk-taking areas of the human brain develop earlier than the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The limbic system of risks and rewards must be respected without dismissing adolescents as impulsive “victims of hormonal imbalances” or mindless risk-takers who are “all gas and no brakes”. Humans are emotional as well as intellectual beings. Learning to integrate affect and intellect is a foremost challenge for teenagers and adults. Insightful adults who understand this are better prepared to help guide today's adolescents through the challenges of the long haul on their journey to adulthood and self understanding.

Thoroughbred or artic tern? Take your pick.

avatar for Rod Todorovich

Rod Todorovich

Adolescent Learning Coach: Affect, Innovation & the PFC, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Developmental psychologist with expertise in adolescent social, emotional and cognitive development. Extensive experience in post-baccalaureate secondary teacher education, and undergraduate preparation for prospective educators. Advanced degrees in Spanish, educational foundations... Read More →

Friday November 13, 2020 18:00 - 18:15 CET