Understanding the Teen Brain!

By: Denise Walker, School Counselor

The mind of a teenager can be perplexing.  Do you ever wonder why your teen makes the decisions they do? Does it seem like all logic and reasoning have gone out the window?  Or, you may be wondering why your child can’t remember to take out the trash, bring home their study guide, or do their homework.  It may be reassuring to know their brain is not fully developed.  A large part of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision-making, planning, and self-control, is the last part to mature.


It’s not that teens don’t have frontal-lobe capabilities, but rather, their signals are not getting to the back of the brain fast enough to regulate their emotions.  Things can be further compounded when the emotional part of the brain and the rational part don’t develop at the same rate. But wait, it gets better.  Then, sprinkle in excitable hormones and peer pressure and you have a teenager with overwhelming emotions.


Whew…what is a parent to do? You are the most important role model in your child’s life.  Your teen is watching how you respond to each and every situation, which can have a profound effect on them.  Remember your teen is still developing and maturing and they are not fully equipped to strategize the most logical way to problem solve.  Talk with your child, get to know what is important to them, remind them they are resilient, and help them explore various consequences for their actions.  Most teens are not capable of making mature decisions and benefit greatly from guidance.


It is easy to get frustrated by the teen brain, but it is important to remember decision-making takes practice.  Next time you have to make a big decision, show your teen how you work through this process.  While it might be easy to step in and solve your teen’s problems, help them navigate the decision-making process that comes with problem solving.  With your guidance, as they grow they will learn to make the right decisions.  You want to provide your teen with tools to do this on their own instead of making decisions for them.


Teens experience a lot of physical changes, and it’s easy to forget the cognitive changes happening inside their brain.  Just remember to enjoy watching your teen blossom into a young adult.  Always be an exemplary guide, offer support, love, and advice when necessary.  Understanding the development of your child’s brain can help you support them in becoming independent, responsible adults.




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