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Positively Framing the Adolescent Years :

August 11, 2021

Whenever I see patients, I try to model positivity for parents. When a parent tells me that “Junior is such a nosy baby,” I’ll say something like, “I love that he is so curious! This is how he learns about the world!” When a grandparent yells at their grandchild for trying to open the door to the exam room, I’ll comment, “Look at how clever she is!”

Whenever I see patients, I try to model positivity for parents. When a parent tells me that “Junior is such a nosy baby,” I’ll say something like, “I love that he is so curious! This is how he learns about the world!” When a grandparent yells at their grandchild for trying to open the door to the exam room, I’ll comment, “Look at how clever she is!”

I think that pediatricians are more used to doing that for parents of younger children than they are for parents of school-aged children and adolescents. And yet how many times have you heard other colleagues or parents say something like, “I’m really dreading adolescence.” or “Teenagers are so difficult?” How do we respond?

This week in Pediatrics (10.1542/peds.2021-050735), we are early releasing a Pediatrics Perspectives by Dr. Nat Kendall-Taylor at FrameWorks Institute and Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that provides evidence-based language that we can utilize to shift how parents think about their adolescents and the period of adolescence.

The strategies that the authors propose are steeped in the science of “framing” – or how we present information. We know, for example, that the way in which we frame our discussion about vaccinations can influence a parent’s decisions about having their child vaccinated. And there are many more examples of how framing our discussions can be important.

For instance, the authors suggest that we emphasize adolescence as a time of “discovery,” as this can shift parents’ goals from shielding and isolating the adolescent from certain experiences to guiding and supporting the adolescent during this journey of discovery. What a great way to think about adolescence!

There is plenty more in this Pediatrics Perspectives. You will especially like the table that provides concrete examples of better framing: “Say this…” and “Avoid saying this…”, with reasons why the alternative framing may be more productive.

I’m looking forward to trying some of this more positive framing with my adolescent patients and their families, and I think that you too will be excited about this after you read this article.

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