During adolescence, the brain goes through a lot of changes that help young people grow and develop into adults. Here are some of the main things that happen:
- Firstly, the brain becomes more efficient in terms of how it processes information. This is because the connections between different parts of the brain become stronger and more streamlined. This helps teenagers to think more critically, solve problems more effectively, and make better decisions.
- Secondly, the brain goes through a process called "pruning", where it eliminates unused neural connections to make room for more important ones. This helps the brain to become more specialized and better at performing specific tasks.
- Thirdly, the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain responsible for planning, decision-making, and impulse control - undergoes significant development during adolescence. This is why teenagers can sometimes struggle with making good decisions and controlling their impulses - their prefrontal cortex hasn't fully developed yet.
Overall, these changes are all part of the normal process of adolescent brain development, and they help young people to become more independent, responsible, and capable adults. Pretty cool, right?
But it's good to know that the adolescent years are a big brain developmental time - not dissimilar to the newborn brain development time. But at this stage the big thing to factor in is that part of their development means that emotions are heightened. That starts to make things make sense, hey?
Dr Daniel Seigel (who we highly recommend) describes the brain development affecting our adolescent kids big emotions as e-MOTION - their brains are preparing them for independence (in motion), and being hyper-alert of others is part of this. But, they’re not that great at it yet, so it also means that teens sometimes misinterpret neutral situations as negative. You may have examples of this. You’ll find yourself saying things like: "I don’t think he meant it like that."