Teens, young adults and brain development
It seems as though the prefrontal cortex of my 22-year-old son is nearly fully developed. He is taking fewer physical risks and being more thoughtful in his actions and reactions.
Since my son was 15 or so, I have looked at him and thought how big and grown up he appeared. His voice changed, he grew tall, began shaving, and didn’t want to hang out with his parents — all hallmarks of growing up. Except for particular behaviors that were a product of his still developing adolescent brain.
The teen and young adult years can be a dangerous time, bodies are strong and agile, yet developing brains are still working toward maturity. Brain research tells us that at this age the region of the brain that controls reasoning and impulse, the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed.
During this time you may notice your teen having a hard time controlling his emotions. Outbursts, blaming and general misery may be common. He may not consider the negative consequences of his actions, evidenced by poor planning and judgment. You may notice a preference for excitement! But he may put forth little effort toward achieving it, instead relying on video games and loud music for thrills.
Teens and young adults may engage in risky behaviors, including taking snowboarding to new heights or doing flips on snowmobiles. But I won’t go there.
Drugs and alcohol may become a problem, and abuse during these years can lead to long-term harmful effects. I will go there. If you believe that substance abuse is a problem for your child, reach out for assistance and try your best to disrupt the cycle. Encourage your child to take healthy risks, instead of those that may harm him.
The point to remember is this, before the age of 25, young people may not have developed the judgment to accurately gauge what is and isn’t a danger to their well being. And though it may be very challenging, it’s our job as parents to help our children to determine what is and isn’t a risk worth taking.
Be patient with your youngster and before you know it they will grow into a thoughtful and more cautious young adult. I promise.
If you would like more information, or a referral to an appropriate resource, please call the Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork School District at 384-5694.
— Jenny Lindsay is executive director of Family Resource Center of the Roaring Fork School District.
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