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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Teens: Are they really as mature as we think?

We’ve taught our kids not to use drugs, to never smoke, and to choose good friends. But, despite our years of preaching, why do they engage in risky behaviors? Some say these decisions are based on the reality of the “teen brain.”

Researchers from around the country are investigating the premise of the “teen brain.” What are they learning?
• Teens may look like adults but the area of their brain that regulates their emotions and their impulses is still developing throughout their teens and not mature.

Can you tell us more about the specifics?
• Teen’s cognitive/thinking areas may be mature, but the area of the pre-frontal cortex that regulates impulses and emotions are not likely to mature until mid-20s.
• Studies show that teens who show resistance to peer pressure have thickened prefrontal areas of the brain with more connections.
• Additionally teens stay up late and many are sleep deprived which leads to poor decision-making and loss of emotional control.

So how can parents use this information in their parenting?

• Realize that your teen make look like an adult, but realize they are still developing and need limits and supervision
• Parents can assist with helping their teen learn life skills in decision making, evaluation consequences, budgeting, and time management
• Teaching our teens to be responsible for their actions and behaviors vs. enabling them to escape life lessons.
• Remember that our teens need adults to mentor, coach and guide them, which are the goals of parenting.

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