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o you think it strange that as parents, we've all been teenagers and have gone through every teenage motion possible but yet when it comes to raising our own teenagers, we find that we don't have a clue about what's happening to those teens that seem to be cooped up in their rooms and have a mind and a mouth that sometimes, you can't believe you birthed, which doesn't seem too long ago?

Well, I do. All. The. Time.

My teen never ceases to amaze me and more often than not some interactions with him have left me screaming internally!

But the thing is that once I learned that the teenage brain is still developing and that their actions are based on a not yet fully developed brain, I began to have a lot more patience and empathy for my son. Of course, it's not always easy especially when your teen is a 'know-it-all' but hey the truth is, we're all still learning.

I've found that understanding the teenage brain is a fascinating topic, and research has shown that the teenage brain is certainly different from an adult brain, and here I'll be sharing six facts about the teen brain that all parents need to know.

teenage brain

01. The teenage brain IS NOT fully developed

You've heard this one before and I'll say it again, one of the most important things for parents to know is that the teenage brain is not fully developed.

According to Dr Frances Jensen, a neurologist and author of "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults," "The human brain doesn't fully develop until the mid-20s."

Your teen's prefrontal cortex goes through ongoing development during their teens and early adolescence. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is mostly responsible for decision-making, impulse control and planning. It's also the part of the brain that is one of the last to mature.

This underdeveloped part of their brain explains why teenagers often struggle with making sound decisions and controlling their impulses.

As parents, it's important to be patient and understanding, knowing that their behaviour is a natural part of their brain's development.

02. The teenage brain is wired for risk-taking

Teenagers are known for taking risks and this can cause immense anxiety for any parent.

But there's a valid reason for all that.

Dr David Dobbs, a science journalist and author of "The Science of Adolescent Risk-Taking," explains that "The adolescent brain's reward system is wired to respond more to immediate rewards than to long-term consequences." This means that teenagers may be more likely to engage in risky behaviours that reward them with instant emotional gratification without considering the long-term consequences.

With all that said, factors such as culture, environment and individual personality traits also contribute to the propensity to any teenage risk-taking behaviour.

Sometimes, it's just a fact that your instincts are going to tell you that your teen will be engaging in a less-than-desirable activity and sometimes, you're just not there in the moment to stop it which I have experienced many times before. The only thing we can do is to give sound advice and explain the consequences of these behaviours. I know I often sound like a broken record to my teen with my words of caution every time he steps out of the house but I don't care and I hope he hears my voice every time he's tempted to do something he knows in his heart is wrong!

As parents, it's crucial that we advise our teens on the consequences of any risky behaviours and decisions they might make.

03. Sleep is crucial for the teenage brain

I've always wondered why my teen sleeps a lot, almost as much as when he was a baby! I've never had the heart to wake him up earlier than he needs to, especially during weekends and when school's out. On the other hand, when school is in, he hardly gets the sleep that he needs with the schedule and deadlines that he needs to keep.

Not only that but I know for a fact that my son scrolls through social media prior to going to bed and that doesn't help encourage sleep either, I know this and he knows this only too well.

Let's be honest, we've been drummed by how crucial sleep is for everyone to function and it's especially so for teenagers. Enough quality sleep is needed for us to function well not just physically but mentally.

A good night's sleep helps the brain to focus its attention, it increases memory and boosts analytical thinking and creativity. On the other hand, lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor to their moodiness, lack of focus in school and at home and preference for junk food.

According to Dr Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University, "Sleep is essential for the maturation of the teenage brain." Teenagers who don't get enough sleep may have trouble with decision-making, emotional regulation, and impulse control.

Supporting your teenager's sleep patterns and habits is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.

04. Social interactions are important for the teenage brain

Humans are social creatures by nature. We learn through social interactions - the good and the bad. Social interactions are important for everyone, but they're especially important for teenagers.

According to Dr Jensen, author of "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults," "The teenage brain craves social interaction." This means that teenagers may be more likely to take risks in order to fit in with their peers. However, positive social interactions can also have a positive impact on the teenage brain.

Their emotional and social development is at its peak during the teenage years. Empathy, communication, cooperation, and conflict resolution are all essential skills that they learn and practice through social interactions. Teens benefit from developing a sense of self-identity, self-esteem, and a deeper understanding of their own and others' emotions when interacting with their friends and peers adults.

Not only that but during these impressionable years, teens also tend to be highly sensitive to embarrassing social situations. That is why some teens may feel embarrassed to speak in a crowd of people they don't know because it's harder for them to ignore how they think people perceive them or what people would think or say about them.

05. Stress can have a negative impact on the teenage brain

Stress happens. It's an unavoidable truth of life. However, the types of stresses we encounter and how we respond to them change with time and experience.

As children get older and approach their adolescent years, their causes of stress multiply. They may be concerned about school, bullying, the death of a loved one, having unrealistic expectations of themselves, social concerns, low self-esteem, as well as issues with family. All these cause so much stress on them and we have to remember that they are new at dealing with stress.

Due to the fact that the adolescent brain is still in the process of growing and developing, researchers and scientists concur that adolescent stress can result in significant changes to the brain.

It's important for parents to know that stress can have a negative impact on the teenage brain. Dr Jensen states, "Chronic stress can have a negative impact on the teenage brain, affecting everything from decision-making to memory to emotional regulation."

Teenage stress might not be a mental health issue, but it can lead to issues with mental health. Young adults who are subjected to repeated or chronic stress are more likely to develop conditions like depression and anxiety.

However, since everyone has to deal with stress at some point, learning healthy coping strategies and ways to manage stress can help teens succeed in life rather than resorting to unhealthy or negative coping mechanisms like negative self-talk or even substance abuse.

As parents, it's our job to help our teens learn how to manage stress in healthy ways and what better way than to be a great role model to them with how we manage our own stresses in life.

06. Positive relationships can have a significant impact on teenage development

I cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to have a solid relationship with their teenagers.

Regardless of what our teens say or how they behave towards us, they need a supportive and loving relationship with their parents not only to survive the teenage years but to thrive. A strong, solid relationship can help a teenager build resilience, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and make good decisions.

A teenager will most definitely feel more confident in themselves and their abilities if they have a strong relationship with their parents. As parents, we can make an effort to spend quality time with our teenagers and create opportunities for positive experiences together. We can be good listeners and provide emotional support when our teenager is going through a tough time. We can show our teenagers that we trust and believe in them.

Making that extra effort with our teens will see them through their difficult teenage years and will serve as a solid base for them in the future.

Understanding the teenage brain is crucial for parents who want to support their teenagers as they navigate this important time in their lives. By knowing these six facts, parents can help their teenagers make better decisions, manage stress, and thrive during their teenage years. It's also important to remember that every teenager is unique, and open communication and a nurturing environment can foster their healthy development.



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