How The Brain Learns: Teen Edition

The teen brain is still growing, still developing, and always learning. According to Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, the brain continues to mature until about 25 years of age. Therefore, teens have a lot of growing, learning, observing, and testing before their brains reach maturity. During the teen years, the brain must receive lots of help for proper development.

The Teen Brain

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, the teen brain undergoes seven important changes. 

#1: The Brain Reaches Its Biggest Size in Early Adolescence

For girls, the brain reaches its biggest size around 11 years old. However, while the brain is at its full size, brain development will continue.

#2: The Brain Continues to Mature Even When It’s Done Growing

The brain’s size is often not connected to the brain’s maturity. Even though a teen girl’s brain will reach its biggest around 11, the brain’s prefrontal cortex will not fully develop until the individual is about 25 years old. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls planning, decision-making, and controlling impulses. It is also the last portion of the brain to fully develop. During this period, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. 

#3: The Teen Brain Is Ready to Learn and Adapt

The teen brain is like a sponge, ready to learn and adapt to new situations and experiences. Helping a teen try new things through challenging exercises, activities, and social outings helps the teen adapt new strategies of interacting with their surroundings. Many people get their first job in their teen years and learn household skills that promote independence.  

#4: Many Mental Health Disorders May Begin to Appear During Adolescence

As teens grow and change, they may communicate with words or behaviors that confuse adults. Teenage years are the period of most people’s lives where they’ll begin to display any budding mental health issues from past trauma or mental illness. Teens are uniquely susceptible to developing mental health issues due to their changing brain, hormones, growth, and vulnerability at this time. 

#5: Teen Brains May Be More Vulnerable to Stress

Teens are still maturing, which means they’re still learning how to respond to stress. Some teens may be vulnerable to anxiety due to stress or other mental health concerns. Because of this, it’s important to teach teens methods of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment and reviewing thought processes to make good choices rather than stress-induced or impulsive ones. 

#6: Teens Need More Sleep Than Children and Adults 

Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is naturally higher in teens since their brains undergo significant and rapid changes. Therefore, teens require more sleep and are prone to tiredness throughout their day. In general, teens need about 9-10 hours of sleep per day. Most teens don’t get that much sleep, which can lead to behavioral issues or strange decisions. 

#7: The Teen Brain Is Resilient

Though teens are experimenting, experiencing, and living life a little fuller than they were as smaller children, their brain is resilient when it comes to trauma or hardship. The teen brain may be vulnerable to stress and mental health issues, but with proper care and help, teens will grow and learn to be self-sufficient adults making sound decisions. 

How the Teen Brain Learns

The teen brain needs continuous stimulation to gather the ability to make sound decisions for their health and overall wellness. It requires more opportunities to learn by doing and trying new things that foster independence and sound decision-making. The teen brain also needs to feel safe, nurtured, nourished, and loved to learn and thrive properly. 

The Teen Brain and Hormones

According to Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, hormones play a significant role in teen behaviors and decision-making. Though some behaviors may not make sense to adults, teens’ behaviors are non-verbal communication about what the teen is thinking. Their thinking can become influenced by floods of hormones and are often difficult to interpret. The most commonly known hormones that teens experience for the first time affect their sleep and bodily changes, which can come with new sexual feelings. As the teen grows through adolescence, they may need help processing and understanding the changes their body and brain are experiencing. 

Teen Nurturing

Though they’re older, teens still need as much love, support, and nurturing to thrive as younger children. Teens still rely on their parents and caretakers for emotional support. Helping teens process changes and grow as a person is vital to their mental health and success. 

As the brain continues to develop, many teenagers will experience significant changes that could result in impulsive behaviors and questionable decision-making. If your teen’s behaviors or mental health challenges go beyond normal teen behaviors, it is time to seek help. At Havenwood Academy, our professional and experienced staff understand the changes your teen is experiencing and can help diagnose and treat mental illness or trauma-informed behaviors. We provide a positive culture for teenage girls established in a regimen that fosters growth and strong decision-making skills. We also offer therapy, school, and fun activities to keep them stimulated and practicing good decision-making skills. Our goal is to provide a safe and comfortable place that nurtures growth, a sense of independence, and opportunity. If your teen displays significant behavioral issues and you’re worried for their future, Havenwood Academy can help. To find out more, reach out to Havenwood Academy today by calling (435) 586-2500.


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