December 1, 2015

How to Connect with Teens

Crystal Hay, an Art teacher from Pennsylvania enrolled in Course 693: Fully Wired: Understanding & Empowering Adolescents and illustrates the effects, causes and adaptations of working with teens. She also provides some great tips on how to connect with teens and will teach you how to understand, communicate and stay connected with your students. Her insights provide a great explanation as to how adolescent minds work and demonstrates ways to adjust your communication to better connect with your teenage students.


Behaviors we see


Brain characteristics in teens


Ways we can adjust to help communication

  • Ready to fight

  • Territorial

  • Mood Swings

  • Unpredictable emotions

  • Hormones! Testosterone affects amygdala (brain part that handles fight or flight response)- overstimulated and ready for fight.

  • Estrogen and progesterone affect neurotransmitters that control moods- allow for quick changes and extremes as hormones level fluctuate.

  • Understanding and patience.

  • This is scary and confusing for teens too. Explain to them what is going on- won’t change hormones but makes it less scary.

  • Regular exercise helps release some of this, level out.

  • Quick to argue/talk back

  • Misread Emotions- “you’re angry/yelling at me”

  • Irrational…Leads to running off from overwhelming situations, slamming doors…

  • Use amygdala vs. PFC – different part of brain- MISREAD YOUR EMOTIONS (clinically, even)

  • Amygdala overstimulated by hormones

  • Teach teens to communicate in respectful, productive ways

  • EXPECT misread emotions, EXPLAIN how you feel (spell it out), MODEL reasonable dialogue techniques

  • Impulsive- act/speak without thinking
  • PFC not fully functioning yet (“executive functions”) so cannot foresee consequences

  • No “filter”

  • High-performance engine – but no brakes

  • Have clearly stated consequences for breaking rules, be rational and calm in enforcing, connect directly to behavior.
  • Calmly, mentally walk through decision making process for situations- talk through process to practice proper steps (wire-fire)
  • Challenge parents/adults authority
  • Psychological stage of development- need to develop their own identity and independence, and establish adult relationships with parents
  • Expect this- allow for some expression but within limits (grumble about rules, try new styles are all okay; swear, harm others, dangerous behaviors- not okay).

  • Understand they need to find ways to express themselves and many need to find new boundaries and approaches.


  • Stay Calm!This is hard to do, but take a breath before you react, and remember that they aren’t thinking the same way as you.
  • Be clear with your teen about what you expect; lay down clear rulesand consequences, and follow through in a matter of fact way (Your choice to…led to…).
  • Allow for “attitude” and extreme emotions sometimes, but let them know when they are going too far; talk them through the right way to handle something.
  • Listen a lot.
  • Model reasonable behavior and discussion – do not get drawn into an emotional state yourself.
  • Help them to know that hormones and growth are part of how “crazy” they feel. If they can know what is going on, it’s less scary. Still hard to control, but less scary.
  • Patience and understanding are needed. Stop and try to put yourself in their shoes (and brains).

Looking to gain greater insights into students behavior and more help in understanding your students? Enroll in Course 693: Fully Wired: Understanding & Empowering Adolescents. This course will explore the various changes occurring in adolescents’ brains and show teachers how to understand, communicate, and stay connected with these students. With the arsenal of strategies discussed in this course, teachers can help their students learn to control impulses, manage erratic behavior, and cope with their changing bodies.


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