Teen Tip Tuesday: Help smooth the journey to adulthood for your teen

19 Sep

Have you ever been completely blindsided by your teenager’s behavior or questionable choices?  If you were able to truthfully answer that question with a firm “no”- then hats off to you! We all knew parenting would be difficult, but very few of us were adequately prepared for the complex world of teendom. The teen years are fascinating and complex which can lead to a strange combination of trials.

Teen girls talking on their phone

On one hand, our teens look and act like mini adults. They dress the part, talk like thirty year olds, understand innuendos, drive cars, hold jobs, and register to vote. Our teens might act the part of being mature, but they are notorious for poor impulse control and the lacking sound reasoning skills. This inability to handle situations like adults can often guide them into dicey situations.



The Science Behind Risky Judgments And The Teen Brain


Even though our teens act like adults, parents need to understand that carefully hidden deep inside is a big secret threatening to topple their entire charade. Within the last couple of decades, researchers have uncovered that adolescent brains are far from mature. In fact, the brain begins a final phase of growth during the teen years and won’t fully mature until the mid 20’s!


Scientists noted around puberty, a rapid period of growth begins. This has been likened to the important window of brain development during early childhood. For teens, the brain begins undergoing a process of linking sections to help it function as a whole unit.


Think of the brain like a road map, it includes pathways called synapses that connect cells and neurons. In a mature brain, these highways help information travel back and forth between all parts of the brain. In teen’s, however, the brain is still under construction creating these vital pathways.


Genes, hormones, and experiences all influence which synapses are strengthened and which ones get pruned away. The old adage about “if you don’t use, you’ll lose it” rings true here. Every activity and life lesson a teen experiences will affect the landscape of his or her adult brain.


The Prefrontal Cortex And Missed Connections


During the teen years we see this concentrated brain development in the prefrontal cortex. It is often nicknamed “the CEO of the brain” and is credited as being the epicenter of brain functions. This area regulates emotions, oversees memory, assesses risks, and more!


The prefrontal cortex is the final lobe to mature in the brain and the maturation process can leave our teens with incomplete synapses. Processing information might take more time or lead to questionable behaviors if the data travels down back roads or takes a wrong turn. The inability of the teen brain to act as a whole unit leaves our children susceptible to peer pressure and a lack of impulse control.


8 Ways Parents Can Promote Teen Brain Development


Understanding the development of the prefrontal cortex can help explain why teenagers are plagued with forgetfulness or bad choices. Here are 8 strategies to use with our teens to help them overcome the shortcomings of this stage of brain development and help smooth our teen’s journey to adulthood:


  • Have meaningful discussions with your child. Go out of your way to touch base every day and find out what your teen is experiencing. Talk about social media etiquette, digital responsibility, peer pressure, and more. Remember to listen and avoid lecturing or yelling.



  • Encourage your teen to try new hobbies or interests. Promote learning and education to take advantage of this period of development to focus on strong connections in the brain.


  • Encourage your teen to avoid alcohol and drugs.


  • Reclaim family meals and focus on good nutrition. Teens may prefer lattes over milk, but keep their bodies fueled with good vitamins and nutrients for proper brain development.


  • Get adequate amounts of sleep. The importance of sleep has been making the news lately and well rested teens can benefit too!


  • Create a behavior contract. This is our chance to lay out all the ground rules and natural consequences before an issue arises. Afterwards you should have a contract both parties can agree on.



For more information on teen brain development, please click on the following infographic: Teen brain development infographic


Guest Post: Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of Hilary Smithgadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics and wishes to help parents raise their children to be the best they can be.  Follow her on Twitter!

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