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The Teen Brain: A Work in Progress

By Aubry Hoffman

If you think that teens are impulsive, emotional, rebellious, prone to poor decisions, and hard to understand you may want to think again. Research and neuroscience are helping us to understand what teens are actually capable of given their brain is still developing. 

If you understand the way the teen brain works then you can reframe the way you look at your teen. Teen brain development is a time of extraordinary strengths along with hidden weaknesses and vulnerabilities that we must take into consideration as we raise our teens. Here are a few things about the teenage brain that I think every parents needs to know. 
  1. The human brain stops developing at twenty-five.
    Teens have a brain that is still full of gray matter, meaning there are many synapses that have not yet formed in the brain leading teens to lack the ability to reason, instead of thinking about how their actions may effect them in the future they need to think and act, ''in the moment." Their brains have not developed the reasoning abilities of adult. The lack of development in the prefrontal cortex will result in cognitive, emotional and behavioral limits for your teens. In other words, stop expecting teens to act like adults. 

  2. Teen brain can't handle stress the way the adult brain can.
    What may seem like a minor issue to you can be very dramatic and stressful for your child. This isn't your teen making a big deal out of nothing this is really a big deal for their brain. This is also the reason many teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol because they are very stressed out and many teens aren't given the tools they need to deal with and manage the high level of stress they are under. As a parent, one of the greatest gifts you can give your teen is effective stress management tools. Teach your teen some kind of breathing or mediation exercise and pick one day of the week to slow down and rest. 

  3. Teen brains are wired for late nights.
    The sleeping habits of humans shift over the course of their life. Babies for instance like to rise early in the morning and go to bed early. The adolescence brain is wired to be up and active late at night. This shifts back to early to bed, early to rise later in adulthood. Teens are kept on the adult schedule of early mornings, which means many teens aren't getting enough sleep because they are naturally staying up late. To help improve your teens sleep let your teen sleep in on the weekend to catch up on sleep and explain to your teen the importance of sleep in reducing stress, anxiety and irritability.  

  4. The teen brain is more capable of learning.
    The teen's brain is extremely plastic; the ability to learn, memorize and retain information is at an all time high. Studies show that teens actually have the ability to increase their IQ during their teen years. This is a fact that shouldn't be taken lightly. As parents we have a responsibility to make learning as easy as possible. Studies show brains learn best with repetition, including studying in the same place daily. Create a peaceful study place for your teen, preferably not in their room and away from their phone. 

  5. A large percentage of teens struggle with addiction to media and screens.
    Teenagers today are online more that ever before and social media is an extension of life and part of their daily socialization. Excessive use of media can have emotional and cognitive ramifications on the teen brain. The key is to help teens manage their online interactions so that the interactions are positive and balanced with time away from the screen. Try putting your phones away at mealtimes and eliminating screen time before bed. 
Understanding the way your teen's brain is working is a powerful tool in communicating with and having empathy for your teen. So next time you scratch your head in disbelief at your teens behavior remember their brain is still developing and they may be doing the very best they can. 

Aubry Hoffman 

is a health coach, yoga teacher, author, and speaker.  She works to empower teen girls to develop a positive body image and healthy eating habits. Her free eBook, Guide to Extraordinary Beauty explores what it means to be beautiful from the inside out. It’s a resource to share with your teen that will guide her through the 7 components of true beauty and provides easy-to-follow action steps. For more information about Aubry visit Permission granted for use on

Tags: Attitude, Behavior, Health, Motherhood-Fatherhood, Parenting, Teens, Tips
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