Victoria Tennant saved her most compelling statement for last — giving people something to think about, to hang onto.
“Really know your kids, look for changes in behavior that don’t make sense,” the veteran education consultant told the crowd at the Northshore Senior Center May 20. “Don’t lose hope. Hold a vision and communicate with teens.”
Tennant took center stage for two hours and spoke to 57 Northshore Healthy Youth Task Force members about “Understanding the Mysteries of the Teenage Brain.” She discussed brain growth and development, emotions, drugs and health, mixing in serious talk with humor and getting the audience — consisting of parents, teachers, coaches and more — involved by telling personal stories about their experiences with teens and students.
“I’m not an expert on the brain or teens. I’m a translator,” Tennant said. “You are the experts to relate to teens as parents, teachers and mentors.”
She emphasized the positives about the teen brain — but also delved into the challenges.
“To the teens in the audience: the brain is so rich with growth, it’s working much faster than an adult’s — it’s amazing,” Tennant said. Later, she added: “It’s more impulsive than an adult’s — and that’s a good thing. But they can get themselves into some really sticky situations (like drugs). They need some coaching and need to implement some fun, safe, healthy activities.”
Tennant encouraged teens to take “positive risks” like playing sports, volunteering and getting jobs. She noted that the right experiences are critical to the brain’s growth.
And while video games are popular with the teen set, they may not be the most productive activity, she said.
“Video games stifle the use of the brain. They’re not interacting with people, not solving real-life problems,” Tennant added.
Justin Better, a 2005 Bothell High graduate, said he used to hole up in his room and play video games when he was younger. However, he broke out of that phase and got into reading and other activities.
Tennant’s talk gave him insight into the emotions of the teen brain.
“(I learned) how to handle things in a positive way,” he said.
Joanne McDaniel, a paraeducator at Maywood Hills Elementary and parent of a Bothell High senior boy, was upbeat after Tennant’s presentation.
“Having a teenager is interesting in and of itself,” McDaniel said, adding that she will apply some of Tennant’s suggestions at home — and at Maywood. “It makes you wonder about what they’re thinking. Now we can try to understand those neurons that are firing in their brain. It (the talk) makes it easier.”