During the adolescent years, around 10 to 11 years old, there is a rapid brain development happening inside the heads of your pre-teen. You remember those precious early years as they were learning to walk and express themselves? This explosive brain development period is very similar, and a lot happens over a short period of time.
It is essential that you understand what is happening in your adolescent’s brain during this transitional time in their life. This information will help you know how best to guide them on their pathway to becoming a young adult. It will also give you comfort to know the changes in their attitude is in large part a reflection of the changes in their brain chemistry. So you can rest assured that it’s not actually the intention of your sweet son or daughter to test your limits.
There are two parts of the brain that are particularly interesting to parents. Behind the forehead is the prefrontal cortex. Each child’s development is somewhat unique, but generally the prefrontal cortex is slower to develop than other parts of the brain. This is unfortunate for your adolescent because this part of the brain is responsible for impulse control, mood and the ability to focus, among other tasks.
Another part of the brain called the amygdala is credited as our emotional center. The amygdala matures before the prefrontal cortex. Why does this matter? As an adult, the prefrontal cortex puts the brakes on the amygdala and gives us some control over our emotions. Sadly, there is limited control for an adolescent.
When you put the development of the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala together, your adolescent’s behavior is more understandable. The challenge for you, as the parent, is to provide boundaries and guidelines to help them understand their responses to life around them and make good choices.
By explaining to your adolescent what is happening in their brain, they can join you in this maturing process and challenge themselves to make good choices.