Your teen’s brain is still a work in progress and only develops fully by the time they are in their mid-20s.
As a parent of a teen, you strive to assist your child in making sound decisions. You provide direction. You provide facts. You shower them with love and attention. You converse with other parents. You recall how you felt as an adolescent and the consequences of unwise choices. You believe you have prepared your teen for success.
But then you discover that your teen has ignored all of your advice and has done exactly what they wanted to do all along!
While this is frustrating and upsetting for parents, there is a reason teens act this way. The prefrontal cortex, an important area of your teen’s brain, is underdeveloped.
In fact, the prefrontal brain does not fully mature until the age of 25! This is why, even after you have explained the risks and repercussions, your teen may continue making terrible decisions.
What exactly is the prefrontal cortex?
The prefrontal cortex is commonly referred to as the “brain’s CEO”. Another way to think about it is like a car’s brakes. The problem with teenagers is that they have the petrol (impulses) but a poor brake system (an undeveloped prefrontal cortex).
The prefrontal cortex is in charge of:
- Seeing the big picture time
- Cause and effect
- Managing emotions and postponing reactions
Even if your adolescent believes they can make mature decisions independently, they cannot. There are some significant developmental gaps. Your adolescent requires your assistance in thinking through all of their choices and repercussions.
Inside your teenager’s brain
When children are very young, their brains experience a rapid growth spurt. By the age of six, their brains had grown to 90-95 percent of adult size. Although the early years are crucial for brain development, the brain still requires extensive remodelling before it can operate as an adult brain.
This brain remodelling occurs rapidly during adolescence and continues until your child is in their mid-20s. Age, experience, and hormone changes throughout puberty all influence brain development.
Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers may rely more on the amygdala, a portion of the brain, to make decisions and solve issues than adults. Emotions, impulses, hostility, and innate behaviour are all related to the amygdala.
You can help your child’s cognitive development by implementing the following strategies:
- Empathy should be encouraged. Talk about your feelings, your child’s feelings, and other people’s feelings.
- Emphasise how different other people’s perspectives and circumstances are. Remind your teen that one action can have a large impact on a large number of people.
- Make a point of emphasising the immediate and long-term implications of actions. Discuss how your teen’s behaviour now affects both the present and the future.
- Try to match your language level to your child’s level of comprehension. You may check your child’s comprehension of essential information by asking them to tell you what they’ve just heard in their own words.
- Assist your teen in developing decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Go through a process that involves describing problems, outlining solutions, and discussing outcomes that are acceptable to everyone.