Ten Tips to Help Parents Understand the Adolescent Brain:
- The thinking, reasoning, and decision-making part of the adolescent brain (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t done developing until the mid-late 20’s. . .Adults in an adolescent’s life can help by modeling healthy problem-solving and decision-making.
- Model the behaviors you want your adolescent to engage in. . . Often our children become who we are.
- Adolescents interpret emotional expressions and body language differently than adults. . . Let your teen know if you are tired or sad or frustrated, otherwise they may think you are mad at them which can unnecessarily increase conflict.
- Sleep is essential. . . It is the time during the day that the brain decides what information to keep and what to get rid of.
- Substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can structurally change the adolescent brain. . . Adolescence is an intense developmental period—the brain is very sensitive to the harmful effects of powerful chemicals during this time
- Risk-taking and exploring are an important part of adolescent development. . . Adults can help create opportunities for adolescents to take healthy risks and practice making choices on their own.
- Encourage healthy activities as experiences shape and mold the adolescent brain. . . The adolescent brain is busy making connections—if a certain part of the brain isn’t used those neurons will be pruned away—like a tree. Encourage your adolescent to engage in activities they want hardwired.
- Have clear and consistent expectations and consequences. . . Make sure teens know the “rules to the game” before they start playing.
- Problem-solve when everyone is calm. . . Remember—it is hard to think clearly or retain information when you are angry. Adolescents tend to respond to conflict using the primal, emotional center of their brain rather than their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex.
- Listen more than lecture. . . Really hear what your adolescent is saying—share adult wisdom by practicing what you want to preach.