By Sophie Barcant,
BA (Psyc), B.ED
Neurons in the brains of teens go through a process of major pruning during adolescence. They lose millions of neurons and new ones are formed. Similar to the toddler phase, their brain goes through very rapid growth.
Five major areas of their lives become noticeably different.
Some very challenging.
- On the positive side they develop new thinking skills as they have greater processing power. They develop adult computational and decision-making skills.
- Unfortunately their good, adult, rational thinking can be instantly overridden by emotional impulses driven from the maturing limbic part of the brain, the seat of emotion. This explains their impulsive and at times irrational behaviours and reactions. Some more than others experience emotions very intensely and this mixed with increased hormones result in typical dramatic over reactive behaviour: intense excitement, rages, fears, aggression, anxiety and sexual attraction. It is very important to have many loving conversations with our teens so as to strengthen their rational thinking, as rational thought is crucial at this time to overrule their impulsive over-reactive tendencies.
- At this time, as they attempt to process emotions, they typically misread people, especially parents and teachers. Again, calm communication, especially on the part of the adult is essential for cooperation. Shouting, nagging, demanding, commanding, criticising, threatening and lecturing simply adds fuel to a fire and results in a division in the relationship where they see that it is not safe to confide or consult the parent and thus become alienated from us, turning to peers for the much-needed feeling of acceptance and importance.
- Peer pressure is of utmost importance. They tend to be very concerned about what others think of them. They will engage in risky behaviour just to gain approval. For most, this ranks as top priority.
- Due to an abundance of Oxytocin hormone they also become very self-conscious at this time. In addition, their higher-thinking abilities start to question philosophical matters and they start to ask themselves for perhaps the first time: What kind of person do I want to be and what type of place do I want the world to be?
With all this and much more going on in their rapidly changing physical bodies, is it any wonder they get distracted, forgetful, rebellious and make mistakes?
We were not handed a parenting manual when they were born. The modern teen has a lot more to contend with than in the past.
Social media has added an entirely new dimension to their mental/emotional health and so too to ours. Let’s not hesitate to seek guidance and support on how to navigate the teen years with wisdom and harmony so as to raise the odds for raising well-adjusted, stable, resilient adults.
Stay tuned for tips on how to discipline our teens and how to respond to their forgetfulness, which adults tend to interpret as irresponsibility.
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