So you want to know more about serving youth but aren’t ready to contact me? It’s cool. I understand. I read Cesar’s Way: the natural, everyday guide to understanding & correcting common dog problems before I shelled out big bucks for an obedience trainer, and guess what? My dog is much happier now that Cesar trained me. (You’re laughing, but for real. Dogs don’t need training; humans do. Change my mind.)
In that vein, I’d like to recommend a book to you.
Brainstorm: the power and purpose of the teenage brain by Daniel J. Siegel is a book I reference in my presentation Teen Brain Development: supporting, programming, advocating. Siegel, a professor of psychiatry, penned this book for parents but it has appeal for anyone who interacts with youth. He helps us learn why teens participate in risky behavior. Knowing the why doesn’t lower my blood pressure after watching the Snapchat story of one of my favorite youth group kids letting a friend “Bird box” her while driving, but it does remind me that it is temporary. If she makes it to 25 years of age, she should be fine. (Meanwhile I’m not watching her Snap Stories for the next seven years.)
Brainstorm has the anecdotes and the science to make you sound smart to the adults. Need to make a colleague an ally? Quote this book.
Siegel theorizes that there are four primary features of the adolescent experience: emotional spark, social engagement, novelty-seeking, and creative exploration. He writes, “Novelty-seeking emerges from shifts in the brain’s dopamine system with the downside of risk-taking behavior and injury, and the upside of having the courage to leave the familiar, certain, and safe home nest for the unfamiliar, uncertain, potentially unsafe world beyond.” So maybe the aforementioned teenager’s Bird Box challenge was dangerous, but in a way it was her brain preparing for a world without the close protection of a parent.
How to use this book: read it. Make notes in the margins (not in the library’s copy, you heathen!). When an idea strikes you, write it down. When you read a line that you can use quickly with teenager-hating colleagues, your own quick one-two punch of setting others straight, memorize it. This book is a tool. A guide. Use it as such.
What book would you recommend?