By Victoria Mullan
Every parent knows that getting a handle on a teen’s behavior and thinking can be quite stressful, if not downright exhausting. You see, when your little one becomes a teenager, her brain changes and grows, too. And, it’s these changes that influence the way she acts, behaves, and thinks.
Once you understand how these developmental changes affect her behavior and thinking, you can have an easy time helping your child build a happy and healthy teenage brain.
The Basics of Teenage Brain Development
Biologically speaking, kid’s brains grow the most when they are at a tender age. By her sixth birthday, your child’s brain will already have grown to 90% – 95% of an adult size brain. Even so, the child’s brain has to be remodeled before it can fully operate as an adult one.
Interestingly, the best part of brain remodeling actually occurs during adolescence. Wonder no more why your adolescent kid always acts erratically. The growth and remodeling of a teenage brain continue into her mid-20s.
However, these brain changes vary from one teen to teen — some even experience the remodeling well before puberty. As you might also have suspected, brain changes depend on one’s personal experience, age, and hormonal balance. So, don’t be alarmed if your teenager’s brain changes start early or later.
Understanding The Teen’s Brain: Getting Inside Your Child’s Brain
Parents, have you ever wondered why your teenage child’s behavior and thinking might seem mature, only a few hours later for her to think and behave impulsively, illogically or emotionally? Let’s get into a teenager’s brain to uncover the truth, shall we?
Teenhood is a busy period for the brain. It is the time when there are remarkable development and growth inside teenagers brains. Although the brain has fully grown to an adult size at the onset of adolescence, some connections in the processing and thinking portion of your teen’s brain remains unused. So, what happens during the teenage brain development is that these remaining connections in the so-called grey matter are “pruned away.” Simultaneously, the brain strengthens other connections based on the principle of use it or lose it.
The interesting part is not the pruning, but the manner in which it is carried out. When the teenage brain begins to develop, the “pruning” process starts in the back, leaving the prefrontal cortex — the front part of the brain — to be dealt with last. The prefrontal cortex, nonetheless, is a powerful part of your brain when it comes to decision-making. It is responsible your teen’s ability to solve problems, control unwanted impulses, and plan and think about the repercussion of her actions.
Since the prefrontal cortex is pruned last, teens often over depend on amygdala as an alternative for making decisions and solving problems. Funny enough, the amygdala is a region of the brain that is responsible for aggression, emotions, impulses, and instinctive behavior. Does that explain your teen’s emotional and impulsive behavior?
Encouraging Healthy Teenage Brain Development
Now that you know what’s happening in the background during teenage brain development, it is paramount that you learn about the experiences and activities that your child is into. Remember you are a crucial part of your teen’s environment. After all, you are the parent — you mean a great deal to her. How you influence and guide her will matter in helping her experience a healthy brain development.
What you can do to help is three-pronged:
- Help her get plenty of sleep
- Promote good thinking skills
- Promote positive behavior
Tips for Promoting Good Thinking Skills
- Instill empathy in your child — talk about your feelings and those of others, and explain how everyone has different circumstances and perspectives
- Use a language that is understandable by your child
- Talk about the immediate and long-term repercussions of actions since her prefrontal cortex is still developing
- Encourage and promote the development of problem-solving and decision-making skills. Don’t forget to teach your teen the importance of honing other life skills such as role-modeling.
Encouraging the development of good thinking skills will help her in so many ways. For one, she will be able to think more logically and solve problems better. Secondly, she will improve her ability to sense others emotional cues. Besides, excellent thinking skills allow her to see things more abstractly and get to know that issues are not as simple as they seem. Lastly, solving complex problems will give her a better perspective on the future.
Tips for Encouraging Good Behavior
- Create family rules and enforce them to give your child some sense of structure
- Reward good behavior — offer plenty of praise when your child acts in the desired way
- Talk through decisions – use a step-wise decision-making process to instill this important skill
- Allow her to make healthy risks — it’ll offer some learning moments for her
- Offer guidance and boundaries
- Stay connected — keep a tab on your child’s activities, interests, friends, and so forth
- Be a good example — showcase what good behavior looks like
- Help her deal with teenage stress — she probably has a lot on her plate – bullying, schoolwork overload, friendship, relationship, and so on. Provide a shoulder to lean on, encourage de-stressing exercises (meditation, yoga, workout, etc.), and keep it jovial to make stress manageable.