In our family therapy sessions, we see many parents who struggle with the challenges of parenting teenagers. Teens are well-known for their tendency to act in an irrational, impulsive or even dangerous way – something that can completely confuse and frustrate even the most well-meaning moms and dads. At times, it can seem like teens don’t consider the consequences of their actions or even think things through in the short term.
The Changing Adolescent Brain
As it turns out, there is a biological explanation for these differences in teen and adult thinking! Scientists have learned that the human brain continues to mature and develop through adolescence and well into early adulthood. They have pinpointed a specific area of the brain called the amygdala which plays a key role in the processing of emotions. The amygdala develops early, while the frontal cortex – the region of the brain that controls reasoning and discipline – takes longer to mature. As a result, scans of the adolescent brain in action show that decisions and problem-solving abilities are guided more by the emotional amygdala than the logical frontal cortex.
Also during adolescence, the connections between brain cells are continuing to increase and function more effectively, resulting in an ongoing improvement in coordinated thought, action and behavior.
What to Expect & How to Help
The developing teen brain means that parents shouldn’t be surprised to observe the following types of behavior:
- Impulsive actions
- Awkward social behavior
- Getting into fights
- Getting into accidents
- Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior
However, this doesn’t mean that teens can’t understand right from wrong, or that they shouldn’t be expected to make good decisions. Talk to your child about the changes his or her brain is going through, and how to handle situations that involve doing something impulsive or risky. Let your child know that your love is not based on choices or behavior. Reward your child for making good decisions by loosening the reins and allowing more freedom. The more your teen develops the ability to be responsible and safe, the less you will have to ensure this by setting limits.
Schedule an Appointment for Teen & Family Therapy
Sound Mind Therapy offers counseling services for teens and families in the St. Louis area who are struggling with life’s challenges. Our therapists hope to help you see these challenges from a different perspective. Learn more about our counseling services by calling (314) 219-5333 or by filling out our online contact form. We serve residents of St. Charles, Chesterfield, Clayton and many other metro communities.