It’s probably happened more than once. The two of you spend an evening having a great time together, and you go to bed with a sense of pride welling up inside over the fact that you’ve raised such a wonderful young man. The next morning, though, it’s a completely different story. He’s almost late for school, his attitude is bigger than his bedroom, and he just seems so . . .well . . .so much like a teenager. What is the problem?!?
Teens aren’t grown up just yet
Your teenage son looks like a grown man. He’s inches taller than his father, and his voice has turned a deep, resonant bass. But his behavior is another matter. He makes rash decisions, drives way too fast and adorns himself in ways that make his parents cringe.That’s because his brain is developing more slowly than the rest of his body. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and UCLA conducted a decade-long study of normal brain development. They found that the frontal lobe, the area responsible for understanding future consequences, making wise decisions and controlling impulses, doesn’t reach maturity until the early 20s.
Immature brains have fast-growing synapses and sections that remain unconnected. As a result, they’re easily influenced by the environment and susceptible to erratic behavior.
This may explain the puzzling contradiction of adolescence. Teens are at their physical prime. Yet their mortality rates soar. Rates of death by injury for people between the ages of 15 and 19 are six times those seen in youths ages 10 to 14. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that teens are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a car crash and three times more likely to die in one. Crime rates are highest among teen boys, and rates of drug and alcohol abuse are high when compared with other age groups.
Adolescents also are more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol. Frances Jensen and David Urion, physicians at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, discovered that adult brain cells recovered more quickly from alcohol exposure than younger brain cells.
Jensen said in Harvard Magazine: “What you did on the weekend is still with you during that test on Thursday. You’ve been trying to study with a self-induced learning disability.”
The implications for parents are clear. Teens aren’t intentionally irritating. They’re still forming into the adults they’ll eventually be. They say they want independence, but they still need lots of supervision from caring, attentive adults.
It’s important to keep teens as safe as possible because they can’t always be trusted to do it themselves. And finally, they won’t be this age forever. They will grow up and become fantastic adults.
Be there with open arms when they do.
TIPS FOR PARENTS OF TEENS: REMEMBER, THEY’RE STILL FORMING INTO THE ADULTS THEY’LL EVENTUALLY BE
• Keep communication open. Be available to listen to your teens. Don’t overreact to what they’re telling you. Ask for their opinions. You may not like or agree with what they’re saying. At least you know what’s going on.Read more at The Tribune.