The teenage brain: Dads matter during the teenage years

boy wearing white shirt and black shorts carrying backpack standing on black concrete road between vehicles and trees during daytime

The adolescent brain is different to the adult brain as it is ‘under construction’ in preparation for the transitions from childhood to adulthood.  

All teenagers go through similar phases including the increasing need for independence, developing identity, testing authority and increased risk taking. All of these phases are linked to developmental and hormonal changes in the brain as it transforms to state that will help them to be logical, functioning adults. 

Due to these changes, adolescents can be highly influenced by their peers. They will be very concerned with the questions – who am I?, where do I fit in? and what do other kids think of me? Adolescents may not understand why they feel the way they do. It’s up to you to nurture them through this period in a way that enables them to grow in independence and realise their potential. 

The issues of how much freedom to give them, how much “attitude” to take from them and how to communicate with your teenager, are the major issues for all parents. 

“As I drove into the shopping centre car park I saw one of the boys from my daughter’s new Year 8 class. I gave him a cheery big wave out the window and turned to my daughter enthusiastically. My daughter was crouched on the floor, crammed beneath the dash. It was then that I realised I had became an embarrassment”     Barry – Parent of Jessica 

Top Tips

  • Aim for calm communication so your teen can be rational. When environments are stressful, the emotional part of a teen’s brain can take over and they can find it hard to reason.
  • Reason with them. Although at times difficult, modelling thoughtful decision making is important. We need to calmly guide them through conflicts and settle them down with reasoning. 
  • Being sincere is really important. Adolescents can read people really well, although they can sometimes misunderstand body language or tone of voice.
  • Let them know you will always be there to support them even though you know they will want to be more independent sometimes. 

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