The Adolescent Brain: A Tremendous Opportunity

Unfortunately, most parents fear the adolescent years.

Too often, adults see adolescents as moody and distant.

Also, we think that adolescence is something to be endured, before we can enjoy our child.

For this reason, teenagers often get a bad rap.

The apparent distance and moodiness of adolescence barely scratches the surface.
Often, adolescents appear moody and distant, but this point of view barely scratches the surface.
Fortunately, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, has a different take.

In his bestselling book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, he explains 4 major changes that occur during the brain’s giant growth spurt of the adolescent years.

Mostly importantly, the key word here is, the brainnot hormones, rebellion, moodiness, nor disrespect.

In other words, the major changes of the adolescent years are caused by the brain, not personality, the parenting style, genes, the home, race, gender, nor socioeconomic status.

Granted, these factors can influence the future development of the brain, but the initial changes start with the brain itself.

So, the first major change is: Novelty Seeking.

Most noteworthy, Siegel writes, “Novelty seeking comes from an increased drive for rewards in the circuits of the adolescent brain that creates the desire to try new things. . .”

  • cons:
    • first, “risk and sensation seeking that inflate the thrill”
    • and, “soften the risk of injury.”
  • pros:
    • first, “looking for novelty develops into a zest for life”
    • next, “a drive to design new ways of doing things emerges”
    • overall, “being open to change”
    • ultimately, “living passionately with a sense of adventure.”
The adolescent brain tends toward novelty seeking.
Novelty seeking is a natural trait of the adolescent brain.
Next, how do we lessen the cons, and increase the pros?
First, guide adolescents to “go within.”
  • Interestingly, Dr. Siegel includes Mindsight Tools in his book.
  • In general, activities like meditation and reflection cause “integration.”
  • “Integration” is the creation of synaptic connections throughout the parts of the brain.
  • Overall, “integration” expands self-awareness and increases self-regulation.
Also, guide your adolescent toward activities that involve structured novelty-seeking.
  • first, playing an instrument cultivates creativity
  • next, outdoor education programs, like Outward Bound and Nols, foster adventure and leadership.
  • without a doubt, traveling invites new experiences and spurs imagination
  • lastly, Dr. Siegel describes, “structured freedom,” any opportunity for thrills, but with limits.

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