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Teenage behavior focus of seminar
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Factual reasons as to why your teenager behaves in the way he or she does were given to parents last week.

Nationally-renowned speaker and neurologist Michael Nerney, an expert on brain development, gave a presentation of his "The Teen Brain Explained" on April 15 at Dawson County High School.

The presentation covered teen moods and emotions, risky and impulsive behavior, and child protection from alcohol and other drugs.

Nerney explained why risk-taking is hard-wired into the teen brain and the best ways to communicate with kids during the adolescent years.

"These images we take help us to understand that kids' brains do not process information the same way that adults do," Nerney said. "They experience a lot more emotional intensity."

According to Nerney, it is a teenager's emotional intensity that becomes particularly important when they face choices associated with risk.

"Research has found that adolescents receive a higher level of emotional reward from both considering and taking risks," he said.

It's for these explanations that parents gathered at the high school.

"I came tonight because I have two kids and a 21-year-old that I had a hard time with when he was a teenager," said Cathy Vincent, who came back this year with her children after seeing Nerney's presentation last year.

"It's especially important because, a few weeks ago, a coworker's teenage son was playing with gunpowder and it blew up in his face," she said. "He's OK, but that just reinforced the reason why my other kids needed to see this."

Parents seeing the presentation said they had questions that they needed answering.

"The main thing I came into here asking myself is: ‘Is there anything that I, as a parent, can do to identify signs of depression, drug abuse, alcohol, any signs of something wrong?'" said Alinda Baggett, who has two teenagers, 13 and 16.

Afterward, Baggett said that the presentation was certainly eye opening.

"Our kids don't think the same way that we do. It's quite different, actually," she said. "They are more apt to take risks. It's helped me understand more about my kids' behavior."

It's because of reactions like these from parents that Family Connection asked Nerney to return for a second year.

"Last time was extremely successful. We had so much positive feedback from the parents," said Family Connection Director Nancy Stites. "It's something you use and it helps you understand your own child. If you understand what's going on, it helps you deal with things in a more positive way."