Relax: Creative Exploration is Natural and Healthy for Adolescents

Without a doubt, innovation and out of the box thinking are natural and healthy for adolescents; however, many adults view this as rebellious and disrespectful.

Fortunately, creative exploration, “outside the box,” is one of 4 major displays of the adolescent brain, which Dr. Daniel Siegel describes in his bestselling book:

In addition, 3 more common traits of this age are:
Innovation and thinking outside the box among teens are often seen by adults as rebellious or disrespectful.
Creative exploration among teens often shocks adults.
On pages 95-96, Dr. Siegel illustrates a common view among adults.

His son and his middle school band members got permission to practice in the Music Room.

  • So, they stacked all of the speakers into a, “huge wall of sound.”
  • They wanted to see how huge they could make it, and how loud it would be.
Subsequently, the administrators handed out “severe consequences,” one of which was to deny privileges to the Music Room.

Without this creative outlet, the band members, “started doing even more egregious things.”

Dr. Siegel intervened. The band members apologized. The administration set new limits, and the privileges were restored.

Clearly, the administrators viewed the boys’ behavior as disrespectful and rebellious.

Fortunately, Dr. Siegel illustrates in his book that creative exploration is not about misbehaving on purpose, but a natural and healthy way to manifest the gigantic growth spurt of the adolescent brain.

He does say, however, that innovation and out of the box thinking for teens should have limits.

Adolescence means a spark in innovation and thinking outside the box.
Adults should expect that innovation and out of the box thinking will peak during adolescence.
What are the pros and cons of creative exploration in teens?
  • first, the cons:
    • “searching for the meaning of life,” can lead to a, “crisis of identity”
    • and, “vulnerability to peer pressure”
    • also, “a lack of direction and purpose”
  • next, the pros:
    • “being conscious of imagining the world in new ways,” can. . .
    • spark a healthy exploration of the spectrum of experiences. . .
    • and, get teens out of the rut of ordinary thinking, and into extraordinary thinking
How do parents cultivate the pros?
  • Most importantly, support your teen’s natural tendency toward innovation and out of the box thinking.
  • Similarly, inspire them to experience life in new ways, with limits.
  • Also, share with them where you may be in a rut, and how you could explore the extraordinary.
  • Dr. Siegel has Mindsight Tools, like breathing and reflection, that allow teens to practice, “going within.”
  • Open the door to creative outlets for teens, such as. . .
    • art classes
    • also, music lessons
    • landscape design
    • cooking; maybe, with you
    • fixing things around the house
Perhaps, discuss a current event, and the way in which the issue is historically seen.
    • Explore the question: “What’s a way to look at this that hasn’t been considered?”
    • Similarly, explore what your teens are learning in school, and brainstorm out of the box questions.
Whatever you do, don’t view your teen’s tendency toward innovation and thinking outside the box, as disrespect or rebellion, but a natural and healthy display of the adolescent brain.

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