The Power of the Teen Brain
The brain undergoes tremendous changes during adolescence. Teens are super-learners. Their brains are taking in massive amounts of information at a rapid pace matched only during the first three years of life. During the tween and teen years until about age 25, different parts of the brain are learning to communicate with each other. It’s those connections that let teens turn thoughts, feelings, sights, and experiences into actions. The teen brain stays highly flexible as it decides what information to keep, what to get rid of, and lessons to learn.
Guide Teens to Wise Decisions
Some parts of the brain develop faster than others. Adolescents can experience stronger emotions precisely because their emotional centers are developing so quickly. The reasoning center is also growing rapidly but at a slightly slower pace. Because teens’ emotional centers are so well-developed, they can dominate when activated. We want teens’ thinking and reasoning centers to be operating at full force when they need to make decisions. Therefore, we must help teenagers to feel safe and calm when important decisions need to be made.
Make a Difference to Teen Brain Development
Parents can help nourish the amazing growth taking place inside teen brains. Here are seven ways you can make a difference.
7 Ways to Nurture Teen Brains
- Build a Balanced Home Life. The home environment strongly influences teens’ well-being. Balance love with rules to create a supportive foundation at home. Tell your teen you love them. Be warm and supportive. And at the same time, make rules to keep them safe and to position them to put their best foot forward.
- Provide Healthy Experiences. Encourage teens to get involved in a range of activities, hobbies, or other forms of creative expression. Look for experiences that challenge teens. For example, create and display artwork, try out for a play or sports league, or join the debate team.
- Establish Good Sleep Habits. Teens need good sleep habits to help the mind recover and grow. Create calming bedtime routines that allow time to wind down. Take a warm shower or read a book. Remove digital devices from the bedroom and set them to “night mode.”
- Encourage an Active Lifestyle. Not only does exercise provide energy to the body, but it also offers health benefits to the mind. Encourage your teen to keep active. The options are limitless — take a family walk, ride bikes, play a team or club sport, jump rope, or even dance the night away!
- Offer Healthy Options. Brains get nourishment from balanced diets. Build menus that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, fish, and more. And cook meals together as a family — it’s more fun! Do your best to minimize your teen’s junk food intake.
- Develop a Plan to Manage Stress. Stress can impact brain development. Work together and develop a plan to manage stress and give your teen coping methods. Include relaxation strategies like yoga or mindfulness, and healthy outlets to release emotion like writing, reading, or journaling.
- Protect the Brain From Injury. Discourage the use of drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances. Encourage seatbelt and helmet use. And model healthy and safe choices. Your teens are looking at you for cues!