For as long as neuroscience has been in existence we have believed that the brain doesn’t change that much after childhood. However recent research has indicated just the opposite.
There is a lot of change, growth and rewiring that goes on and most parents, caregivers and educators are continually perplexed by the brain changes, behaviors and attitudes that accompany such rapid brain changes.
In truth we have always known that junior high aged students are radically different in their behavior, emotions and relationships than when they were children. It is common knowledge that there is a lot more impulsivity, emotional destabilization and high-risk behavior that often doesn’t make sense to adults. We have judged, blamed, shamed, labelled and worked to find ways to control these teenagers by external means of behavioral interventions and sometimes even punishment.
That is why parents, educators and anyone who deals with adolescents must be aware of the recent neurological information that is emerging about the teenage brain. One source of that information is the neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, the author of her 2018 book titled,
Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. A summary of some of the research can be found in this article. Here is the link:
It is insightful to understand just how many changes are going on in the teenage brain. At Lakeside we have watched these changes for decades in so many of our students who have not been able to succeed in their school and community. One conclusion in this article is that we should be focusing on teaching teenagers to self-regulate. That simply means that we need to teach them what is actually happening in their own brain development. They need to be aware what is happening when they are feeling responses and/or emotions that feel out of control, with options other than acting out in their behavior. They can learn the tools and interventions of self-regulation that will help them have better self-control and less impulsive behavior.
In order for teenagers to self-regulate, those who work with them also need to know the tools of good brain regulation. In so doing we can more clearly understand, support and guide them to have increased knowledge and a better perspective on where they are in their own brain development. That allows them to find new pathways to walk through this volatile developmental phase in their lives in a calmer and more balanced way.