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Understanding The Wild Ride Inside Your Teenagers Brain

Ah, the teenage brain! It's like a swirling vortex of mystery and confusion, a land where logic goes to take a vacation and hormones throw a never-ending party. As parents, trying to understand the changes happening in our teenagers' minds can be a wild ride. The teenage brain goes through massive changes particularly in areas responsible for decision making, impulse control and reasoning and these changes produce all sorts of impacts on your child’s ability manage their emotions, behaviour and decision making capacity.

First things first, imagine your teenager's brain as a bustling amusement park. It used to be a simple and orderly place, with neat little pathways for thoughts and emotions to navigate. But now? It's a chaotic mess, like a rollercoaster gone rogue. The park's management (aka their prefrontal cortex) is desperately trying to keep things in order, but they're constantly outnumbered by unruly thrill-seekers called hormones.

"Imagine your teenager's brain as a bustling amusement park....It's a chaotic mess, like a rollercoaster gone rogue"

Remember when your sweet little angel used to carefully consider the consequences of their actions? Well, say goodbye to that! Thanks to the brain remodelling going on, your teenager is now equipped with a shiny new feature called "immediate gratification mode." It's like they've discovered a secret cheat code for life where they only care about what brings instant pleasure. Long-term planning? Pfft! That's for adults and their boring sensible brains.

And speaking of emotions, your teenager's emotional landscape is now a theme park of unpredictable attractions. One minute they're ecstatic, and the next minute they're devastated. It's like their feelings have their own dedicated "spin-and-win" wheel, determining which emotion they'll experience next. As parents, we're just passengers on this crazy emotional rollercoaster, trying not to lose our lunch. This is all due to increased activity of the limbic system – the area of the brain associated with emotions. Let's not forget about the legendary battle between the teenage brain's accelerator (the reward center – or the ‘nucleus accubens’) and the brakes (the impulse control). The accelerator is like a hyperactive bunny hopped up on caffeine, constantly seeking thrills and excitement. Meanwhile, the brakes are like a weary old tortoise, desperately trying to keep everything in check. It's a never-ending tug-of-war between "I want it NOW!" and "Maybe I shouldn't..." Prepare yourself for impulsive decisions, questionable fashion choices, and the sudden appearance of peculiar piercings in places you didn't even know could be pierced.

But amidst this brainy mayhem, our teenagers are also experiencing incredible growth and self-discovery. They're discovering who they are, what they're passionate about, and how they fit into this crazy world. The brains capacity for learning and memory is actually heightened during adolescence and can be harnessed by encouraging your teen to pursue their interests, participate in extra curricular activities and explore new subjects.

Remember, as parents, we're all in this teenage brain amusement park together. Here are some practical tips to ensure that you get off the ride safely!

1. Foster open communication: establishing open and non-judgemental communication channels with your teen is crucial. Encourage them to express their thoughts, feelings and concerns without fear of criticism or punishment. Regularly check in with them and show genuine interest in their lives.

2. Set clear boundaries and expectations: Clearly communicate your family values, rules and consequences. Involve your teen in these discussion, allowing them to express opinions and concerns. This approach encourages a sense of autonomy and accountability whilst ensuring their safety and wellbeing.

3. Encourage independence and responsibility: Teens crave autonomy as they develop their identity and transition into adulthood. Gradually give your teen more freedom to encourage responsible decision making such as managing their own money and their schedules. This will also help improve their self confidence and critical thinking skills.

4. Find Common interests and activities: Engaging in activities together can strengthen your relationship and provide connection. Discover common interests such as cooking, watching movies or sport. These experience can create positive memories, facilitate communication and foster connection.

If you would like to learn more about all of the brain changes going on for your teenager be sure to sign up to our live webinar this June with psychologist Carly Black. Click on the link below for more info!


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