The Steering Adolescent

Like a good driver, a socially and emotionally healthy child learns to steer their mind as they drive the road from childhood to adulthood.

The road is not always smooth or straight. They must learn to navigate pressures, challenges, break downs and crashes all on a busy, competitive road.

The skill of steering your mind is quite separate from the skill of IQ. IQ is like the engine of the mind’s car, but steering applies that power in the right direction and at the right time. Having a powerful engine does not always mean you can navigate the bumps and turns on the road successfully.

In today’s world, there are many obstacles on the road making it harder for children to drive. The road is busier and faster; the road signs are less clear. Like drivers with L Plates on, children now have to negotiate the roads of social media without their parents to protect or guide them. Here the pressures and threats from mocking, posting, liking or disliking peers can be difficult to manage.

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These are some of the reasons behind the rise in teenage mental health problems in western societies.

  • 1 in 10 children between 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder
  • Number of young people admitted to hospital due to self-harm increased by 68% in last ten years
  • Admission of preteen children to hospital for eating disorders tripled in four years

And these concerns are not restricted to any sector of society.

  • 38% of 15yr old girls from most affluent social classes suffering with depression or anxiety compared with 27% from lowest socio economic class.

Reliable research from around the world has shown that the critical skill for social and emotional health is the ability to self-regulate. We describe this as the ability to steer your mind. If you can steer your mind, you can anticipate dangerous risks avoid them; you can judge when you need help and when you should continue alone; you can weigh up how much to trust your own judgement and when to trust other’s.

A child’s ability to steer is not written into their DNA. It can be trained, much as you can teach someone to drive a car. The most effective way of training your children to steer is through learning to give them the right signposts, at the right time. For example, if our child is driving too fast, we need to recognise that and signpost for them to drive slower. If our child is trusting others too much, we need to teach them to trust others less.

One of the key skills for a parent, is being able to recognise how our child is steering, so that we can give them the right signposting.

Poor steering can lead to a child developing social and emotional problems. Like a car veering off the road this may, in time, lead to damaging behaviours or actions if those patterns of thinking become entrenched. This site is designed to help parents recognise the patterns of thinking our child may be developing.

If we can put up the right signposts, at the right time, then we can help our children develop healthy patterns of thinking. This will increase the chance they steer on the road, rather than off it.

Does your school know about AS Tracking? Teach your children to steer at school