Why We Exist

Teenage Brains Are Different!

Teenagers are different...

They are neither adults nor children. The decision making areas of their brains are just developing and continue to develop through their 20’s.

These adolescents are vulnerable to risk taking and impulsive behaviors. A teen’s need for instant gratification is much greater. Their ability to process and analyze situations is still developing.

Who they are; how they try belong or fit in; what is their purpose and are they wanted? These are the questions that teens are grappling with. This is the beginning of the a process to create their own identity.

Adolescence is a phase of tremendous emotional growth, in addition to physical and biological growth. Since we can’t see the emotional growth aspects as visibly we tend to ignore it. This is phase where patterns are set, beliefs are established and the foundation for socializing and relating created. The brain is at peak flexibility and at peak ability to learn and process.

Teenage brains are moulded by emotional experiences

  • Teenagers are very easily affected by emotional experiences, both good and bad, much more so than adults. They can carry the effects around for the rest of their lives. These experiences literally rewire the brain.
  • It is important for teenagers to have positive experiences that include feelings of freedom, belonging, creativity and achievement, before the brain sets into a pattern.
  • Teenagers need social connections for their mental and emotional well-being
  • Suicide ranks in the top three leading cause of death amongst teenagers in various countries of the world. One of the main causes of suicide by teens is the stress induced by the lack of belonging and connection.
  • Children and adolescents who have negative experiences are at increased risk for mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, headaches, and low self-esteem.

Teenagers are particularly susceptible to addictions and other risky behaviors

  • Teens who start drinking by age 13 have a 43% chance of becoming alcoholics. This becomes 10% by age 21.
  • Drugs, including marijuana, are also found to have a much greater debilitative impact on the teenage brain. They are more addictive and also causes temporary stop in the learning process, at this peak learning time.

The negative impacts of social media and video games are also starting to be seen. Positive and live social interaction and experiential learning that empathizes group collaboration, social consciousness and creative thinking are critical during this phase.

Teenagers use reward-based decision making. Feeling seen, valued and heard are crucial intrinsic motivators.

Addiction could be seen as a type of learning, and chemicals and technology form much stronger reward circuits than normal behaviours. Once the patterns are established in the brain, they are difficult to change.  Teen years are an opportunity to create change

Alcohol, drugs, bullying, bad parenting, abuse, cruelty and other unpleasant experiences during adolescence can have lasting impact on behaviour, character, employment, relationships and happiness.

Interventions, education and rehabilitation can all be undertaken at this time of change and transformation, when the plasticity of the brain allows it to be moulded, and set, in a more positive way. Teenagers need to feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, independence, and competence

Teenagers benefit most when they experience a sense of community, autonomy, success and growth, working collaboratively, interacting on projects that are challenging, and then showcasing the results to peers and others.

Adolescents need spaces where they are given the freedom to choose and create something of value. Spending time with adults they can trust allows teens to cultivate grit and perseverance, leading to lower dropout, truancy and future crime.