The teen brain and the missing gym bag!

I tried very hard not to get annoyed with my teenage son when he lost his gym bag. I know in the grand scheme of things, it not a big deal. But, it still bothered me that he couldn’t find it! The items were expensive.

blog gym bag

It was a frustrating experience because in the past, he always took very good care of his things. No matter the cost, he rarely misplaced anything.

However, I’ve noticed some changes since he’s turned 13, one of which is that he tends to be forgetful. I questioned myself. “Is this MY perception?” or in fact a new reality.

I was (a bit) relieved to discover that it’s not my perception but that it has to do with brain development. The current brain research has shed some light on the teen years. The adolescent brain grows just as much as it did in early childhood. Here are a few facts that have helped me understand a bit more about teen behaviours.

teen brain under constructionThe brain continues to develop until around the age 24.
• There are 2 brains at work, the emotional and the rational.
• The emotional part develops first. It dominates teens’ thinking and behaviour.
• The emotional brain is excited by risks and thrill seeking experiences.
• The frontal lobe of the brain or rational part develops later.
• The rational brain is responsible for planning, organizing, controlling impulses and self-awareness. (Explains my gym bag situation…).

This really does explain a lot. It’s allowed me to dig deep and find a little more patience and tolerance when faced with some of his behaviours. My job- Stay calm, be that rational brain and help guide him through these years.

Here are some ways to be that rational brain for your teen.

  • Help them plan ahead (e.g., like what to do when going out to a party & you need a ride home)
  • Problem-solve together different scenarios they might find themselves in.
  • Talk about YOUR concerns and how it makes you feel.
  • Focus on health & safety issues. Help your teen think about the outcomes of their actions.
  • If you find yourself in conflict, remember your teen is ruled by emotions.
  • Always try and stay calm. Don’t get into a power struggle about who is right or wrong.
  • Provide opportunities for safe risk taking (e.g., performing in front of an audience, skateboarding or skiing using appropriate safety equipment).

Humour for the day! Here is a short funny video about adolescent forgetfulness. Enjoy.

Do you have any other ways to be that rational brain? We would love to hear from you!

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for almost 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 10 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my teen son & pre-teen daughter with my hubby in Halton.
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