The adolescent brain works differently from that of the adult. Teenagers act impulsively and irrationally because their decisions are based on their emotions. This is because their brain continues to mature from childhood, adolescence, and into early adulthood.

As a parent, you are very likely wondering how to understand the teenage mind. This may be a challenge, but if you know how crucial teenage years are in your child’s development into an independent and responsible adult, you will do whatever it takes to make your teen feel understood.

What Are the Changes in a Teenager’s Brain?

The first thing you have to learn is how your child’s brain develops as it transitions from childhood to adolescence to the teen phase. Below are some things you will notice as your child enters their teen years.     

Increased learning capacity and mental adaptability: The teen brain is pliable, meaning it easily changes depending on the stimulus from the environment. Teens are still not done with their brain development, which helps them adapt or respond to new information fed to them. You can help their brain mature by exposing them to challenging brain activities such as stimulating academic activities, solving puzzles, art appreciation, and problem-solving exercises.

Increased tendency to mental disorders: Since the teen brain is still under development, it is more vulnerable to mental illnesses. Physical, social, and emotional changes in an adolescent’s brain may trigger it to develop disorders. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder are just a few that can arise.

Increased vulnerability to stress: Teenagers respond differently to stress compared to adults. Their coping mechanism to stress is not yet fully developed. This can result in combined stress-induced mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Being attentive and aware of the current situation may help teens manage and respond to stress better. 

Greater sleep requirements: For proper brain development, teens should get abundant amounts of sleep. They should have at least 9–10 hours of sleep every day.

Research tells us that, unlike the adult brain, melatonin (the sleep hormone) in an adolescent brain is only produced around 11 p.m. With these facts, sleeping early is biologically impossible. This is the reason why your teen is having a hard time waking up early in the morning and performing in high school.

Many research studies suggest that sleep deprivation in teenagers can cause a decline in brain activity and the ability to learn new information. This can lead to emotional issues, mood changes, aggressiveness, irritability, and depression.

Increased challenges in resilience: The teen brain is highly vulnerable to stressors and mental health disorders. However, such challenges are important in increasing maturity and mental strength in preparation for adulthood. Most adults have undergone this challenge and turned out to be all right.  

How to Communicate with Your Teenager

Understanding the mind of a teenage brain may be one of the hardest things you have to grapple with as a parent. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to bridge the differences between you and your teenager.

Learning how to communicate with your child is a start. But how exactly do you do this without being misunderstood by your teen?

Adolescence is a very formative stage in your child’s teenage brain. This part of your teens’ life is the most challenging and crucial time for you to understand each other. You don’t have to worry about their behavior because this is just a phase. Here are some things that you can do to understand your child better.

Understanding the Teenage Brain

Getting along with your teenager is not that hard as long as you keep the following advice in mind.

Listen without judging: You’re probably very curious about what runs inside your teen’s brain. They may not open up to you because they feel uneasy about being judged. They feel that there’s a distance between parents and children. You can start bridging this gap by being your child’s friend.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings: Remember that your kid’s problem is not the parents’. Avoid saying something like, “get over it, because it’s not worth it. ” They will feel dismissed, and this may put a distance between you and your teen. Try to empathize with their feelings instead.

Give them your trust: Your teen wants to be trusted by others, especially adults. Let them know that you have faith in them. Find ways to show your teen that you trust them.

Don’t be a dictator: Every time you set a new rule for your teen, make sure you have a follow-up explanation. Let them understand that the decisions you make are for their good without forgetting to explain to them the consequences of their actions.

Compliment your teen often: Teens may seem a little shy to admit, but deep inside, they still crave your approval and special treatment. You are showing them that you notice their efforts, and it’s very good for their mental health when you praise or compliment them for the positive things they have done.

Control your temper: Parents must understand that teens are usually unable to control their emotions and mood very well at this age. Be logical to not respond to their rudeness with your temper. Be patient so they’ll respect you or open up more to you.

Spend time with each other: The COVID-19 pandemic presents a good opportunity to take part in doing what your teen likes to do. Discover things that you like doing together. You can teach them to hike, cook, or improve their life skills. This way, you learn more about your child without talking to them.

Eat together: A good bonding moment is sitting together while sharing a meal. Having a regular meal schedule builds a stronger relationship between you and your child.

Be observant: Observe if there are events where your child shows changes in their normal behavior. It can be a sign that your child is having a problem with their mental health.

What Can Parents Do?

As a parent, you are the person that your teenager looks up to. Be a role model by being a good influence to them.

Your actions will inevitably influence your children, so don’t be afraid to have a serious discussion regarding the consequences of their actions. This will help them understand and respond accordingly to situations.

Remind your teen that they are strong and can do anything as long as they set their mind to it. Help them see that they are the ones who can lift themselves above bad situations.

Make them feel important by showing genuine interest in the things they like. Listen to hip-hop music if this is what they’re into. Just remember that you don’t have to like the genre the way they do.  

Always be present at times when they appear to be troubled. Sometimes, they only need an adult to listen to them.

Just be careful with your judgment. You want your teens to see you as a safe place where they can be themselves. Let them be vulnerable around you without blaming or fixing their problem for them. Also, be very mindful of what advice to give them.

Related: Tips for Talking to Your Children About Mental Health

Can Therapy Help in Your Understanding the Mind of a Teenager?

There are three main types of counseling for teens: individual, group, and family. Other people do a combination therapy. If you’re looking for a mental health professional who can help your teenager, you can book an appointment with a trained therapist or counselor at Kentucky Counseling Center.

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