Is Your Teen's Brain a Mystery to You? Unlock the Secrets of Teenage Development and Transform Your Parenting or Teaching Skills Today
I want to share some exciting scientific insights with parents and educators that can help them understand the unique challenges and opportunities of the adolescent brain. As you may know, adolescence is a period of major brain development that involves pruning and plasticity of synapses, similar to the toddler years. This means that environmental factors can have a profound impact on shaping the brain circuitry that underlies important developmental tasks such as establishing intimate relationships, developing identity, independence, self-confidence, self-control, and social skills.
But here’s the exciting part: the same plasticity that creates the unique adolescent experience also gives parents and educators the power to wield strong influence on the adolescent brain. That’s right – you have the ability to shape the brain of the next generation! Repetitive exposure to emotionally regulated people and regulating experiences, such as rhythmic and repetitive sensory experiences like breathing, dancing, and walking, can prepare the teen brain to withstand peer pressure and handle difficult social interactions.
Moreover, emotional regulation and the brain structures responsible for it are heavily influenced by parent-child interactions. This means that your ability to stay calm and composed during your teenager’s emotional outbursts can actually help them develop the skills they need to regulate their own emotions in the future. So, the next time your teenager is throwing a fit, try to take a deep breath and remember that you’re helping shape their brain!
But the adolescent brain is not without its challenges. During this period of development, the rewards of social connection in the limbic system can often outpace the ability to think about consequences in the prefrontal cortex. This can lead to impulsive decision-making and emotional dysregulation, which can be particularly risky when it comes to things like drugs, alcohol, and risky behaviors. However, it’s important to understand that this risk-taking behavior is a natural part of the adolescent brain’s preparation for adulthood and separation from the primary family unit.
So, what can parents and educators do to help teenagers navigate this exciting and challenging period of brain development? Firstly, stay regulated yourself so that you can model emotional regulation for your teenager. Secondly, provide a positive and supportive environment in which your teenager can practice handling difficult social situations. And finally, understand that the development of the adolescent brain is a “use it or lose it” process – the synapses that survive are the ones that are more often “in use.” So, the more you can help your teenager practice positive emotional regulation and social skills, the more likely they are to develop the neural circuitry they need to succeed in life.
At Be Human(e), we believe that by empowering teenagers with the soft skills of the future, we can help them navigate the challenges of adolescence and become the best version of themselves. So, whether you’re a parent or an educator, let’s work together to shape the future of the next generation!