Do you find yourself being Confused by Your Teenager’s Behaviour? Many of us find ourselves tearing out our hair over our teen’s moods and behaviours and wonder what happened to the adorable, sweet-natured child we had; as what at times appears to be an alien emerges. We may blame ourselves, our partner and may even feel guilty, inept or ashamed. The purpose of this article is to explain the difference between a child, adolescent and adult brain. To de-mystify why our teen behaves the way they do and how we can support them on the journey to being a fully functional adult. First of all I will explain the structure of the human brain. The brain sits on the brainstem, which connects to the spinal cord. It is divided into four lobes – Different functions tend to be associated with particular areas of the lobes.
- Frontal (top front) – concerned with executive function, reasoning, problem solving, working memory, judgement, insight and impulse control. Plus the execution of fine voluntary movement.
- Parietal (top back) – is divided into two functional regions. One involves sensation and perception and the other is concerned with integrating sensory input, primarily with the visual system. The first function integrates sensory information to form a single perception (cognition).
- Temporal (sides) –discrimination of sounds and includes areas involved in the regulation of emotions and sexuality, language
- Occipital (back) – house the visual cortex. The cerebellum in the rear of the brain regulates motor patterning and co-ordination
- The connectivity of the brain slowly moves from the back of the brain to the front. The very last places to “connect” are the frontal lobes.
- The teen brain is only about 80 percent of the way to maturity. This 20% gap where the wiring is thinnest, is crucial and goes a long way toward explaining why teenagers behave in such puzzling ways – their mood swings, irritability, impulsiveness and explosiveness; Their inability to focus, to follow through and to connect with adults; their temptations to use drugs and alcohol and to engage in other risky behaviour.