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The Truth About The Adolescent Brain

Updated: Oct 21, 2021


What the heck is actually happening in the adolescent brain when a child is moving from adolescence to adulthood?

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:
  • act on impulse

  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions

  • get into accidents of all kinds

  • get involved in fights

  • engage in dangerous or risky behaviour

Adolescents are less likely to:
  • think before they act

  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions

  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviours

These brain differences DON'T mean
  • that young people can't make good decisions

  • or tell the difference between right and wrong.

  • It also doesn't mean that they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions.

However, an awareness of these differences can help support parents, teachers, advocates, and policymakers to understand, ( Anyone having to tolerate this difficult stage) anticipate, and manage the #behaviorofadolescents.


So, what is this stage of development and how can I survive with my TWO TEENS!

Changing Brains Mean that Adolescents Act Differently From Adults

#DanSiegel has done an immense amount of research in understanding why behaviour changes and how we can support it while surviving it.

Key Points
  • Changes in the brain during adolescence include a rapid increase in the connections between the brain cells and making the brain pathways more effective.

  • Nerve cells develop myelin, an insulating layer that helps cells communicate.

  • All these changes are essential for the development of coordinated thought, action, and behaviour.

  • Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex.

  • The amygdala that is also responsible for immediate reactions including fear and aggressive behaviour develops early.

  • The frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later.

This part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into adulthood. This made my heart drop too...

But, You can do this!!!

#Teens learn best through practice, and they want and need to learn to manage their own lives. In doing that, however, they must also have guidance and support from their families/caregivers.

  • Providing a rationale and explanation for family rules and behaviour expectations. When #childrenandadolescents understand the reasons for rules and the context behind them, they have an easier time supporting and following those rules.

  • Labelling and validating a child’s feelings and perspectives. #Validatingfeelings is an essential component of #mentalhealth and growth. By #normalizingemotions, parents can help them understand that everyone has challenging moments. This also helps children learn that #strongfeelings are nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Minimizing judgement and control. Many parents may try to control their kids, try to influence children instead. Parents who attempt to control children can become dependent on power-oriented strategies. By adopting a more collaborative parenting style. By doing so parents make room for children to develop #greaterautonomy. This in turn helps children develop the skills necessary to become independent adults.

  • Allowing children to make choices. By providing age-appropriate opportunities for children to make independent choices and decisions, parents are giving them a healthy sense of agency and control.

  • Supporting growth and new challenges by scaffolding and practising new skills with children. In construction, scaffolding helps supply extra support to the building being erected. When the building is finished, the scaffolding is removed, and the structure is able to stand independently. Parents who use scaffolding education offer children similar support. Scaffolding skills incorporate information and skills children already have. This approach helps foster greater autonomy and independence.

  • Letting children solve problems on their own. Parents often feel as if they should swoop in and rescue their children when they encounter a challenge. But when problems arise, it’s often better to brainstorm together and list possible solutions to the challenge at hand. Offer guidance when needed but encourage youngsters to problem-solve independently.

  • Letting children struggle (safely). Every child encounters #failure at some point. Trying and making mistakes or #failingispartofgrowth. If children do not develop healthy #copingmechanisms around failure, they are more vulnerable to #anxiety. It is essential for parents to model that failure and #makingmistakesareessential parts of the learning process. By letting children learn from their mistakes, we are giving them an important opportunity to develop #resiliencegritconfidence, and #copingskills.


Dr Christine Carter The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction

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