We all know the stereotype: forgetful, irrational, and unstable. It’s easy to see the progress of a teen’s body as they grow into adulthood, but seeing what goes on inside of their heads isn’t quite as easy to understand for parents, who are often disassociated from their children’s mental development.
The stereotypes are correct: as puberty happens, teenagers are overwhelmed by a flood of hormones and emotional experiences that literally reshapes their brains. By the time children reach puberty, only a portion of their brain is fully developed. This period in their life is also a major transitional time–where teens try to shed themselves of the “restrictive” bonds of being a child while still depending on others to provide for them, all in order to become semi-self sufficient. At the same time, they are constantly growing to resemble less of their child-like appearance, due to physical changes, and more of what they will look like as an adult.
As the brain grows, it is shaped partially by the physical changes that come with growing up, but also by the human interactions that take place on a daily basis. These social interactions, which might be painfully obvious to adults, are literally the baby steps to rational thought that all children need to take before they can be expected to act like an adult. Teens use less of their prefrontal cortex when reading others’ emotions, leading to less than 50% of teens being able to correctly identify the true meaning–or at least the obvious outward meaning–of a facial expression, leaving teens vulnerable to overthinking and drawing the wrong conclusions.
When considering the physical changes that occur in every child’s life, the importance of patience cannot be overstated. This infographic explains the development of the average teenager’s brain, breaking down the process in layman’s terms to better discuss what can be a very trying time in a family’s existence. In the end, it’s equally as important for parents to understand the massive changes going on in their child’s head as it is for the child. If both parties know, then they can act in unison to make this time as fruitful and effective as it can be, with the goal of a mentally mature young adult being the ultimate desired outcome.
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