Personally, I think we all need to understand our brains better. It is so helpful in understanding why we think, feel and act the way we do! But let’s start with a few things that are specific to a teen’s brain.
- Throughout the teenage years the frontal lobe is still developing, and experiences a few major growth spurts. This is the part of our brain that differentiates us from the animals. Our frontal lobe manages our judgments, reasoning, sexual behaviors, future planning, emotional expressions, and more. So, you might choose to be more understanding of your child’s mistakes, give him/her more time to process and make decisions, and allow your child to learn from natural consequences.
- That frontal lobe also creates the skills for debating. We all know teenagers often negotiate and argue more than they used to, and that’s because of their new brain capabilities. As a parent, it might be helpful to recognize this as a developing skill, not a personal attack.
- Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is essential for our brain’s neural pathways to learn new things and make memories. The trouble is that the hormone melatonin, which helps us feel ready for bed, is released later at night in the teen years. As frustrating as it may be, teens’ brains actually make it harder for them to go to bed early and wake up early. This may give you new perspective on your teenager sleeping through lunch on the weekends.
- A teenager’s brain is also now capable of creating a self-concept. The need for independence is actually cognitive. As adolescents, they are trying to figure out who they are as individuals. In addition to time away from their parents, this may mean your teen is creating their identity through new taste in clothes, hair styles or even new beliefs.
- As teens are building their self-concept, they are also gaining awareness of others’ thoughts. This often leads to anxiety about what their peers are thinking and saying about them. Your child is starting to see themselves through another person’s perspective and it can make them question the identity they are trying to define. It is helpful to encourage your teen to find groups that are based around a specific interest they share, like a club or organization at school.