What is going on with my teen?

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I recently came upon a great article written by Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist,

on Facebook titled “What Were You Thinking?!? Understanding the Teenage Brain”. I’ll admit, as a mom to 4 teens and a counselor, the title had me intrigued. I have included the link below and would fully encourage you to read the entire article, but keeping in mind that all brains and teens are different and nothing is set in stone.

Here are some highlights for you:

  • Teen brains are full of synaptic plasticity, which is where two brain cells connect and is much higher in teens, which is why they learn so well.
  • IQ levels can rise and fall, brains utilize the best learning from K-12 where they literally absorb the most and can more easily correct what may be difficult.
  • The brain is only around 80% developed at the end of the teen years, the frontal and pre-frontal lobes are the last to connect in the mid 20’s.
  • Front lobes and pre frontal lobes run judgment, empathy, impulse control and insight…which are still under development in teens. They can reason on a test, but not in real life situations.
  • Teens emotional connections are to the frontal lobes…which are still developing so they are firing full speed with no barrier which accounts for risk taking, making mistakes and being impressionable to bad influences.
  • Addiction is worse in teens due to the plasticity and absorption, drugs and alcohol have a greater affect in lesser time resulting in higher addictions.

How does all this help us parent?

“I think what parents sometimes do with teenagers is that they get frustrated and they throw up their hands. That is the wrong thing to do. I am not advocating for helicopter parenting. What I’m saying is that as much energy as you put into your toddler, it’s a different kind of energy, but you may have to put in even more for your teenager. You have to help them plan. You have to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses. Talk to them about decision-making. As a parent, you have to step up and be their frontal lobe. Give a frontal lobe assist, if you will.”

  • Teens struggle to remember things due to their brains not firing on all cylinders which is why they appear so self-absorbed.

Myth: “Oh, they’ll be fine. They will bounce back. They will grow out of it.” Well, teenagers do grow out of it, but I felt we were dismissing what they were doing during the teenage years. It’s an incredibly valuable and precious time. It’s a time you can still really scaffold your brain for your future life. I think parents need to know that. I think teenagers need to know that. You need to mind your brain. You get one brain.



Another great source is on Facebook called Positive Parenting Solutions.  Check out their page, they have tons of great information about parenting today’s kids in today’s world. https://www.facebook.com/PositiveParentingSolutions/

Selena Morefield
Selena Morefield, MA

Hello, my name is Selena Morefield. I am a counselor at Lighthouse Counseling at the beautiful downtown Waconia location. I enjoy working with children ages 6 and up, teens, college students, adults, couples, families and seniors. I focus on using a variety of strategies, based upon what may work best with each individual personality and situation. If you are interested in establishing a supportive, trusting and open relationship, then we may be a good fit and I would love to hear from you. 

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