Having teenagers can be difficult. As adults we sometimes have difficulty understanding why they do the things that they do, or we struggle to figure out ways to provide them with the tools and resources they need to become well adjusted adults. This blog is about the teenage brain and it’s development, why teenagers do the things they do, and some ideas for supporting your teen.
For teenagers, the brain may be done growing in size, but it does not finish developing until around the mid twenties. The prefrontal cortex is the last area of the brain to finish developing and is responsible for planning, organizing, understanding consequences, decision making, problem solving, etc. Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers are more likely to make decisions based on how they feel, as opposed to considering potential consequences and outcomes. Therefore, teenagers are likely to engage in risky behaviour and may not consider the consequences. If you are trying to motivate your teen, it may be more beneficial to use positive reinforcement and rewards, rather than punishment.
Teenager’s sleep patterns will also likely change. Their sleep schedule may shift due to the melatonin releasing later at night. Because of this, it’s not abnormal for a teenager to go to bed late. However, the late release of melatonin does not help withthem having to get up early for high school. What ends up happening is that teenagers are tired a lot of the time. Screen time can also have an affect on melatonin and cause it to release late. It is suggested that teenagers avoid screen time from 8pm on.
Setting expectations and boundaries are a good thing. Remember that they need to be consistent, fair, and predictable. The expectations may not be liked by your teen, but that is okay. As the adults, we know that sometimes we are not liked, but your teen will come around.
Good communication is always important! Try your best to stay connected with your teen. Yes, your teen will want to hangout with friends more and that is normal, but you can still have a relationship with teen, it might just be a little different than it was when he/she was a child. Make time for them and be involved. A positive and loving relationship with parents and caregivers is extremely important for healthy cognitive development.
Nagel, M. (2015). Imagining the Unimaginable- The Brain has Branches. Blame Their Brain- Why Adolescents Do What They Do. https://pbc-shs.eq.edu.au/Supportandresources/Formsanddocuments/Documents/p-and-c-documents/blame-their-brain-dr-nagel-presentation(pdf1.4mb).pdf
Blog post by Provisional Psychologist, Jennifer Yim-Rodier.