If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might occasionally feel frustrated by your child’s actions. It’s fairly normal for teenagers to rebel against their parents and test their limits. But when you think back to your own teenage years, you’ll probably remember that you’ve grown up a lot since then.
Although it can be difficult to be patient with your teen during this tumultuous time, it’s important to note that teen brains actually differ from adult brains. That’s why their behaviors and decisions can occasionally seem so incomprehensible to adults. Here are a few ways in which teens’ brains and adults’ brains are actually different.
Why do teenagers seem so impulsive sometimes? This is primarily because they don’t have as many neural connections that adults do. Their brains also have not developed an adequate amount of white matter yet.
This means that the different parts of their brain don’t share information quickly and easily. They may not be able to weigh their options well, simply because they can’t integrate all the different factors at the same time.
Poor Decision Making
For teens, the lack of neural connections and white matter often leads to overall poor decision-making. They can’t foresee consequences the way that adults can. Therefore, they’re more likely to make a choice without considering how it could end poorly.
This could mean anything from entering a relationship that isn’t right for them to staying up too late before early mornings at school to procrastinating on their homework and other important assignments. They often can’t accurately assess the consequences of their decisions, so they genuinely don’t realize that things will turn out badly when they make choices that seem silly to their parents.
The teenage years are a time when many people develop addictions. If you’re a parent, it can be nerve-wracking to think of your teen being exposed to this. Why are teens often susceptible to developing addictions? It’s due to the lack of neural connections.
Teens cannot truly weigh the long-term consequences of trying potentially addictive substances. They often make choices about substance use that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Lack of Empathy
You might get irritated when your teen tries to pick fights with you. Sometimes, they might open up to you about disagreements with their friends, or within romantic relationships, and you may feel like they simply aren’t seeing the other person’s side of the story.
Your teen might object, but this is not because they don’t care about the feelings of others. It’s simply that teens need more time to develop those crucial neural connections and, therefore, deepen their empathy for other people. As their brains develop, they will find it easier to step into someone else’s shoes and see their point of view.
Teens often feel overwhelmed by their strong emotions. When you’re young, you’re still experiencing many significant milestones for the first time, from your first love to your first heartbreak to your first chances at taking real steps towards achieving your dreams.
And when you go through moments like this for the very first time, it can feel very dramatic. You might feel like your teen is acting out, but truthfully, they’re just trying to process these intense emotions. As a teen, it’s not always easy to put words to what you’re feeling or to express yourself in a healthy way.
Are you struggling to support your teen during this complicated time in life? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.