8 Facts Parents Need to Know About Teen Brains

8 Facts Parents Need to Know About Teen Brains

Teenagers have many characteristics that are hard for parents to understand: being irrational, dramatic, doing stupid things, and screaming for no reason. In their growing days of gaining greater independence they still need loving care only you can provide. The same holds true for toddlers. The reason is that the brain doesn’t grow significantly (‘growth spurt’) after infancy until during the adolescent years, translating into a muddled teenager mind. Their brains are also wired to act out, seek rewards, and be increasingly immature. But, this will change after becoming an adult.

1 – Brain Development

Although the brain continues to grow throughout life, the adolescent teenage years are where the most major development of the brain takes place. The things teenagers learn during this time sticks with them for the rest of their lives.

2 – Teenage Brain Blossoming

It was once thought that a blossoming brain only happened during the first three years of life in infancy. But, now scientists have reported the discovery that the brain takes on the same organization and efficient arrangement characteristics right before puberty. This is why life experiences a teenager goes through is essential for their adult lives, since their brain truly develops and increases in brain matter to prepare for future learning. “It’s important to remember that even though their brains are learning at peak efficiency, much else is inefficient, including attention, self-discipline, task completion, and emotions. So the mantra “one thing at a time” is useful to repeat to yourself. Try not to overwhelm your teenagers with instructions” according to Frances E. Jensen, MD, FACP, Professor of Neurology.

3 – Big Brains Equal Big Thinkers

Since the brain matter increases before puberty, it is not a far stretch to realize a teens’ brain’s processing power increases as well. The increased capacity for thinking allows for the heightened decision making and computational skills that start to show in teenagers.

4 – Teens Throwing Tantrums

No one changes more than babies and teens. The problem is teens don’t realize how fast they are changing, nor are they aware of their newly acquired advanced problem solving and abstract thought processes. And since they aren’t ready to harness the new skills emotionally, they tend to throw tantrums and freak out in a more adult way. Even when your teen blames you, know it’s not the parents fault. It is during these times parents need to take the time to listen and be patient to help them figure out the things they aren’t understanding.

5 – Emotionally Intense

The emotions of teenagers range depending on their level of development. Younger teenagers don’t know how to use all of their new reasoning skills, and often misread the information coming from adults. However, older teens have grasped these skills a bit more, and have started to understand a higher level of thought. When they don’t understand, the emotional thoughts can be overwhelming and pour out as such, especially in the younger teens.

6 – Peer Pressure

Research shows anxiety develops and even increases in teens as their abstract thinking skills develop. The new abstract thinking skills allows for teenagers to begin to see themselves through the eyes of others. Unfortunately, many teens end up seeking peer approval after this realization sets in.

7 – Risk Takers

Teenagers take many more risks than other age groups. Early years of adolescence is when parents may see some teens starting to participate in risky behavior. The National Institute of Mental Health stated in The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction, “Crime rates are highest among young males and rates of alcohol abuse are high relative to other ages. Even though most adolescents come through this transitional age well, it’s important to understand the risk factors for behavior that can have serious consequences.”

Take action to help them eliminate these actions by getting them to see the long term results of such behavior. The brain development process that helps them to see the long term consequences of risk taking doesn’t start until they are about 17 years old.

8 – Let Them Sleep

Although the myth exists saying only young children and babies need a lot of sleep; it is not true. Teenagers require 9 – 10 hours of sleep every night to ensure their body can support their growing brain and body. When they don’t get enough sleep, their brain development and growth can be hindered, not to mention the immediate effects of moodiness and slow thinking. The nationwide study recommending later start times for middle school and high school students is being looked at and implemented by school systems across the country.

Adolescence is a busy time for teenagers inside and outside of their body. Some teenagers have a difficult time navigating this phase. We can help teens get back on track if they have lost their way because of poor decisions. Contact Havenwood Academy today for more information.


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