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BRAINSTORM by Daniel J. Siegel


The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

by Daniel J. Siegel

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-58542-935-6
Publisher: Tarcher/Penguin

Siegel (Psychiatry/UCLA School of Medicine; Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, 2010, etc.) tenders approaches to making adolescence work for parents rather than tearing them apart emotionally and psychologically.

Although adolescence is often appreciated as a hormonal experience, the author examines it as a brain-change experience in which the brain is more integrated through the testing of boundaries, seeking independence but nurturing an interdependence that will offer both safe harbor and a launching pad to overcome the qualms of the unknown. For every bright side of the adolescent road, Siegel adds, there is typically a downside, so he endeavors to exercise the positive and minimize the negative impacts. Self-awareness and empathy are critical aspects of the process. The neuroscience involved can sometimes feel a bit wobbly. Regarding his “mindsight” skill, was it really necessary that he needed “some word to remind me that seeing the mind, being empathetic, compassionate, and kind, were important”? Must the process of tapping into “our own and others’ inner workings [to]…understand the outer behavior of ourselves and of others” now be called the inside-out approach? Siegel emerges as a bighearted writer, fully convinced that we all possess the fundamental virtues to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, and he is eager for us to set them loose, working with adolescents to cultivate the positive aspects—and he is hugely convincing of the intense engagement and creativity that often accompany this time period in a person’s life. However, no new buzzy nomenclature is needed; it’s distracting. Still, those twin pillars he presents to imbue life with meaning and joy—to savor and serve—really can’t be beat.

Smart advice, if unnecessarily repackaged, on providing the most supportive and brain-healthy environment during the tumultuous years of adolescence.