Health

Understanding the Teen Brain

Understanding the teen brain can help parents realize that some of their decisions may be based more on their emotions, lack of ability to reason, and inability to consider the consequences rather than them simply being “rebellious” or “defiant”.

African American mother and daughter isolated on white
By: Mindy Landrum

Parent/teen relationships can be very challenging, but that doesn’t mean these relationships are doomed to fail and be a nightmare for both parties! Understanding the teenage brain can help. 

 Teen Brain 

Teens are going through a time when their desire for independence increases and their brains are going through significant growth and remodeling. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for solving problems, controlling impulses, planning, and thinking about consequences. The prefrontal cortex is remodeled last and often continues into people’s 20’s.  Because it is still remodeling in teens, they often rely on the amygdala, which is the part of the brain associated with emotions, instinct, aggression, and impulses. 

 Understanding the teen brain can help parents realize that some of their decisions may be based more on their emotions, lack of ability to reason, and inability to consider the consequences rather than them simply being “rebellious” or “defiant”.   

 Like any relationship, this can be a difficult time for both parents and teens, but it doesn’t have to be if both parties are willing and open to work together and make some changes! 

 The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgement, planning and controlling impulses, doesn’t fully develop until the mid- to late-twenties. Try to listen and not criticize—offer options and various viewpoints in discussions.” 

              —Danielle Duff 

 What can parents and teens do to improve their relationships?  

Parents 

  • Choose to stay calm, learn to listen, and empathize with what your teens are going through. You may not completely understand their struggles and feelings, but to your teen they are real. Knowing that you are trying to understand and care can go a long way.
  • Resist the urge to react harshly.
  • Talk through solutions together, rather than demanding your way.
  • Praise and encourage them often, keep the communication open, and let them have a voice!
  • Finally, prioritize spending quality time with them, and let the natural consequences of their behaviors do the teaching (read “Parenting Teens with Love and Logic”).

 Teens  

  • Keep an open mind to your parents, be respectful, and be open.
  • Find healthy ways to express your emotions. Stop and think before you act, be willing to work together to solve problems, and remember that your parents are doing the best they can and they make mistakes too!
Executive Director |

As the Executive Director of Pike Road Counseling, LLC, Mindy Landrum works to create a welcoming, warm, and therapeutic atmosphere where all clients feel welcome. Mindy is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Psychology.

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