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The teenage brain

Are you trying to figure out the teenage brain?

It is a little confusing at why teenagers are so emotional or why they make decisions on things that you think is not logical. There’s a lot of door slamming and very sudden emotional outbursts. Their superpower at this stage is having all sorts of emotions on repeat, all day. They change as quickly as the weather in the UK and you never know if you will say or do something that they approve or disapprove – today it can be the one and tomorrow the other, on the same topic.

Let's use a scenario where she asked to go to a friend's house to study, but instead, they took the parents car and drove without a licence, just 3 blocks down for an impromptu visit to another friend.

What is going through their mind is that they did amazing problem solving by finding a means to go down the road diverting stranger danger by not walking or going in a taxi. They had a great time together, returned home without any harm. It was a flawless plan and all their needs were met.

We should all adopt the PAUSE strategy. When faced with a situation we should pause the moment and have a quick think how the end results will be. What went through your mind as a parent you found out about this venture was the lies about their initial intention to study, the irresponsible act of driving underage and without a licence and the confusion at why she is so mad at you, blaming you for always spoiling her fun.

Let me explain:

The fun thing about the brain is that it develops from the back forwards. As the development of the brain grows, the underdeveloped areas are supported by other areas in the brain. This basically happens because we are geared for survival. With each step of brain development, we have certain needs to be met. As a baby it’s mainly physical development, so we help them with walking, talking, motor skills. They learn, with our help, to be cautious to physical harm. During the teenage phase, it is all about emotional development, problem-solving and learning to make a logical analysis of situations. As a baby falls a thousand times learning to walk, your teen will make quite a few, if not the equivalent number of mistakes learning the finer art of being a responsible, confident and strong adult.

All through our life, we are fun seekers, more so during the teenage season.

Realising it is the most vital time for brain development, we as experienced adults should help teens through this time because it is during this phase where they can make out who they want to become as an adult and then build on that idea as they progress. How great is it to be able to do it under supervision and help from involved parents or guardians?

Now, I‘m not a Neuroscientist, I’m however obsessed with the human body, how it’s made and how it functions. Pair that passion with working with teenagers, I guess I can make some sense of this subject, all the lingo and why teenagers feel like a different species altogether. The very last part of the brain that needs development is the Prefrontal Cortex. This area is responsible for logic, how you express your personality, decision making, cognitive behaviour and social behaviour. It really is there to help our thoughts and actions match up with our internal goals. This area is highly underdeveloped during the teen years and during this phase, the amygdala (a-mig-da-lah) steps in to do most of the work. This little part in the brain is geared for emotions, memory and survival. It’s also stimulated by sex hormones, but that’s not the topic for today.

As the prefrontal cortex develop, which will only be fully developed by the age of 25 – 30 years (in traffic, it feels like for some forever), it is the amygdala that helps with decisions. That is mainly why most decisions that teens make are emotional, to seek out the fun side, to stay safe and usually doesn’t make sense to adults

Keeping all this in mind, we should remember that they are learning. Every initial mistake made is an opportunity to learn through it. As adults guiding the teens, we should try patience and know that a lot of persistence will be involved. Thank goodness the time physically spent as a teen is small in comparison to that of an adult.

Teach a teen to be an adult, you’ll remind an adult how it is to be a teen! This I hope will help all future adults to remember what it was like to struggle through this amazing phase and to have an understanding when they are parents to a teenager one day.