The Young And The Restless: Understanding The Teenage Brain

the-teenage-brainAh, the tumultuous teenage brain. That magical, mystical place where everything is magnified by, like, a million. Sorry, was that stereotypical?

In all genuineness, we want to demystify what is going on in the brains of our teenage friends, and offer some reasons why the teens in our lives should be treated with more respect.

First, what is a teenager? Believe it or not, adolescence runs from approximately age 12 through age 24. Yes, 24! And it’s characterized by major changes in the brain, which can explain some of the erratic behavior that is the hallmark of teenhood. If you are a parent of a teen, you know what we are talking about!

So, what are some of these developments taking place in the teenage brain?

According to Dr. Dan Siegel, neuropsychologist and author of, “Brainstorm: The Power And Purpose Of The Teenage Brain,” the changes that happen in the brain during adolescence are essential to healthy growth and development. Instead of looking at teens as ticking time-bombs, Dr. Siegel believes that understanding the mechanics behind teen brains allows us to generate better ways to interact with, and help, our teens. In Dr. Siegel’s view, there are four major developments taking place. These are:

Novelty Seeking

During this time, the teen wants to try new things and experience sensations in a different way. Since her sensory awareness is heightened at this time, risky behaviors like drinking and drug use become more attractive. In fact, sources suggest that “1 in 5 American high-school seniors abuse alcohol at least twice a month.” However, not all sensation seeking has to be negative. Helping teens learn to engage in healthy adventures like zip-lining or geocaching can address this urge for newness without creating destruction.

Social Engagement

During teenhood, socializing becomes of utmost importance. Where once the child’s parents held her full attention, now, friends are the cat’s pajamas. This can cause trouble because friends can be bad influences and promote risky behavior, but with the right influences, it can also lead to lasting relationship skills.

Increased Emotional Intensity

As we mentioned earlier, every emotion is intensified at this stage. Sad moments seem devastating and good times feel everlasting. It’s the stuff of great art, really. What’s necessary, though, are tools to help teens navigate these wavy waters. Seeing an individual therapist is a great way to learn these tools!

Creative Exploration

Teen brains are looking for new ways of understanding and perceiving events. Where previously they may have accepted information as is, they are now prone to questioning authority figures and looking to find answers on their own. While possibly frustrating for said authority figures, this is actually an essential part of becoming one’s own being. If properly encouraged, teens in this stage can grow to experience life with a sense of wonder, like the great poet, Mary Oliver, who endears to live life, “like a bride married to amazement.”

If you would like to talk more about understanding your teenager, contact us. We are here to help!