The Typical Human Brain:
Understanding the cognitive developmental milestones of a typical teenager involves understanding how our brain works in the first place.
1. The amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of gray matter located inside our brain is an emotion generator. It is responsible for generating emotions like fear, anger, anxiety and aggression.
2. The prefrontal cortex (PFC): Is the part of the brain that regulates emotional responses and understands the consequences of the actions we do, is the last one to develop in our brain. In fact, the PFC is not fully formed until 25 years of age.
The Typical Teen Brain:
Because the PFC is not fully formed for teens, its unable to regulate their emotions. They seem to have less regard for outcomes.
The part of the brain that’s responsible for the reward system, called striatum releases dopamine that makes them biased towards actions that give them instantaneous rewards and an attraction towards money. The upside to this behavior in teens is they also have the ability to confront new challenges unlike adults who are risk averse.
Cognitive Behavioral Milestones For Teens:
• Start to understand concepts like power and influence.
• Question things, don’t take everything at face value.
• Develop the ability to think abstractly.
• Their answers show idealism, criticalness, argumentativeness and sometimes indecisiveness.
• Begin to pay more attention to current news and political climate.
• Want to contribute and value money.
• Begin to pay more attention to decision making.
• Begin to pay more attention to organizing ideas, time and things.
How Teens Interpret Mystery:
Communication and connection are very important to a teen as they navigate these delicate years of personal growth and transformation.
When they sense that the adults in their life are not being forthcoming with information, it can lead to a lot of emotional turmoil.
If they sense you’re holding onto something from them, they can find this mystery very confusing. They start to assume that it might have to do something with them and that they might be somehow at fault.
Why And What Teens Hide:
Children value learning when caring adults in their life value them for who they are. They thrive in genuine interactions where they feel comfortable to be themselves and where they don’t have to fear judgment.
By creating an atmosphere of trust and openness, we can assure our teens that our attention is a place for them to grow their strengths and be the best version of what they can be.
When teens don’t feel the anchor of safety, they tend to hide things from us. Some of the things teens might hide from caring adults in their life are:
• Their real ambitions
• Bad hygiene
• Money issues
• Project procrastination
• Cheating on tests
• Damaging property
• Fights or harassing comments
• Unauthorized usage of vehicles
• Drugs, Juul, Sexual encounters etc.
Teenage Stressors and Fears:
Because they like freedom, in their adolescence teens start seeking out independence. Then they realize they have to start meeting expectations and obligations. Soon, they become overwhelmed with responsibilities and start procrastinating.
Of course, procrastination leads to anxiety. And then they start resisting, lying and retrieving into their own shell. It’s a cycle….. Along with the constant anxiety of meeting peer expectations, teens fear a few things, often secretly.
• Someone dying
• Failure at school
• Not doing well in class
• Text anxiety
• Not fitting in
What Teens Really Want:
Although our teens seem to be aloof and socially distant with us, it’s part of the persona they learn from emulating their peers. But the truth is:
• They love it when they’re involved.
• They like contributing and making a difference.
• They want to do well.
• They want to have friends.
Nurturing Teens and Their Emotional Needs:
Parenting with shame and uncertainty is detrimental to the inner monologue of a teen growing up in the shadow of a parent living self judgement and self-doubt. That doesn’t mean you’ve validate your existence with superficial external perfection.
But, if you don’t humanize yourself to show your struggles and what you’re doing to thrive in your personal life, teens grow up not really understanding life completely.
After all, our deep connection with our children is the only tool with which we can nurture their minds along with putting the plentiful abundance that mother nature offers us to grow their bodies. Let’s start with helping our explore their interests and in turn develop their self-confidence, so they can get ready for the real world with a compelling story to tell.