Think back on your adolescent years (between the ages of 13-24). Can you think of a time where you look back and say, “What was I thinking?” Of course you can! And I can too! (Hello, hair dying fiasco of 10th grade.) However, sometimes we have a difficult time understanding why the teens we love do what they do and say what they say. Adolescents make some (seemingly) crazy decisions and say some crazy things.
Between the ages of 12-25, the brain undergoes massive reorganization. Like a hardware or software upgrade on your computer, the adolescent brain goes through a season of “remodeling.” The good news is: the remodeled brain is faster, stronger, and smarter!
So yes, parents and teachers, this is a good thing!
During this time in brain development, changes are slow going, and more and more connections (through neural pathways) are made in the brain. The neural wires are firing quicker! This means that over time, teens experience better decision-making, better impulse-control, the ability to set long term goals, and the understanding of rules and ethics. (And we wonder why our teens are so tired! Their brains are working on overdrive!)
Key aspects of the adolescent’s developing brain are (1) sensation seeking, (2) risk taking, and (3) social reward and peer-approval seeking.
1. Sensation seeking
2. Risk taking
3. Social rewards & peer-approval seeking
The decisions your teen’s brain makes are not random! The sensation seeking, the risk taking, and the social, peer-approval seeking - They all serve the purpose of making brain connections that lead to healthy development and relationships later in life.
As a parent, or a mentor to teens, you can help the brain do its job by encouraging your teen’s healthy independence and exploration of the world around them. And, yes, in a few short years, they will look back and most likely say, “What was I thinking??”
References: Baird, 2011; Dobbs & Cahana, 2011; Felix, 2017
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.