Teenage Development: Why They Seem to Go Crazy and Why That’s Normal
Teenagers are not necessarily “crazy” — it just seems that way.
Adolescence is actually one of the most fascinating stages of a child’s development – a milestone. It can also be one of the most nerve-racking and confusing times for parents. It’s not easy for them to watch their teen trying out other ways to handle matters.
It isn’t rebellion. It’s normal teenage development.
But is it all due to raging hormones? Or what?
A Major Reconstruction
Imagine you’re renovating your house. You know what the final product will look like, but in the meantime, there’s chaos everywhere. Things are just not functioning as smoothly as before. However, you patiently support the work being done because you’re excited to see the final product.
It’s similar to your child’s brain during the adolescent years.
Your teenager’s brain is undergoing profound growth and changes – particularly in the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s master control center. Existing connections are being broken down as new ones are formed. Their brain begins systematically eliminating some synapses in favor of those it uses more frequently.
Add to that, a process called myelination – a fatty material, called myelin, covers the connections between neurons and enables electrical flow, creating a quicker and smoother mental response. In this way, the teen brain is slowly pruned and honed into a sleek, lean machine with fewer, but stronger, synaptic connections.
Can you begin to see what kind of chaos exists in the brain of your teenager?
Of course, the final goal of this reconstruction is to have an adult brain that has more precise and efficient connections, just like the goal of a home renovation is to make it more efficient, beautiful, or functional. But during the reconstruction phase, things don’t always function as they should.
For example, your teenager might exhibit: 1) strange behavior due to the fact that their frontal lobe is not as connected to the rest of their brain, 2) poor concentration because their brain still has too much active gray matter, leading them to try to process everything around them and literally overloading their brain, or 3) irrational emotional swings due to difficulties interpreting facial expressions and vocal inflections from others.
However, if you remain patient, you can also look forward to seeing exciting and wonderful new developments taking place.
The Final Product of Teenage Development
Just consider the fact that during this reconstruction phase, your teenager’s brain will become more adept at arranging information into ideas. They will begin weighing the underlying issues of matters and learn to express their opinions with conviction.
Of course, they tend to practice their new skills on those closest to them – their parents. But keep in mind that, while they often seem to just argue for the sake of arguing, they’re actually practicing their new abilities. Take it in stride! Be assured that they don’t necessarily want to overthrow all your values, they’re just struggling to make them their own.
It’s like trying to figure out where to fit all your old furniture after the renovation of your house. You have to think about what to keep and what not, but you won’t throw anything out that is precious to you.
Something similar happens during the teenage years. They examine their parents’ values and standards and decide which ones they want to keep. It’s actually a good thing! If they would accept all your values without questioning them, they’re also more likely to accept those of others without question. Is that truly what you want?
Surely, you want your teenager to grow into a mature adult, one that can exercise good judgment, has clear discernment, and can take a stand for their own values and standards. For that, they need your guidance and support during this very normal developmental phase of their life.
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