There was a big hit song in the 1980s entitled “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” In the song, Will Smith narrates what it’s like being a teenager in a household where, you guessed it, “parents just don’t understand.” While this concept gets a chortle, the truth is that when it comes to the adolescent brain, many parents truly don’t understand. However, gaining this understanding can be crucial to your daughter’s recovery.
Many parents don’t understand that there is a physiological component involved in the way teenagers act. This is because the brain isn’t fully developed yet. It is important to understand the biological differences between adult and adolescent brains. This knowledge will go a long way in better understanding your daughter’s behaviors and how she can recover.
Better Understanding the Developing Brain
Here is what the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has to say about adolescent brain development. The institute explains that “Though the brain may be done growing in size, it does not finish developing and maturing until the mid-to-late 20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature.” It is this lack of prefrontal cortex that can help explain many of your daughter’s riskier behaviors.
The NIH continues “[the prefrontal cortex] is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses. Because these skills are still developing, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors without considering the potential results of their decisions.” When we feel like our children are acting out of spite or ignorance, the truth is they may not have as much control over their actions as we (or even they) think they do.
Teenage Behavior in Relation to the Adolescent Brain
The concept of “nature versus nurture” also comes into play when we think about adolescent brain development and behavioral choices. As much as we try to impart a good moral compass to our children, the truth is that their adolescent brain reacts differently to stimuli than the adult brain.
According to the scientific journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, the adolescent brain is not as equipped to handle stress as adult brains are. The journal explains that “the type of stressors we experience and how we respond to them change throughout our life. Adolescence represents a stage in development when both of these aspects of stress are in flux.”
Differences in the Stress Response
Of course, the situations that cause stress differ between childhood to adulthood. But the main point here is that stress exists and is managed biologically. When we are faced with stressful situations as adults, our brain has been developed to handle these situations in reasonable and thoughtful manners (generally speaking).
However, when children or teenagers come face to face with stressful situations, they are often ill-equipped to handle them. This is why risky behaviors may occur. It is also why it is common for adolescents to shut down and stop communicating when handling outside pressures or internal struggles like those associated with mental health.
Creating a Positive Path for the Developing Brain
Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we understand that the underdeveloped adolescent brain is something that must be taken into account with your daughter’s recovery. That is why we utilize specific tools and resources to help your daughter not just recover but also understand some of the reasons for the behaviors that brought her to us.
At Clearview Girls Academy, we take a three-tiered approach to recovery. We address the emotional-behavioral aspect, the physical aspect, and the spiritual aspect of our students. Believe it or not, the biological aspects of the brain apply to all of those areas.
Therapies for Emotional and Behavioral Health
When it comes to working out emotions and reframing behaviors, we have a myriad of therapies that we utilize to aid us in this. These range from the more “traditional” like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to the more “esoteric” like equine and art therapy.
A Serene Setting to Reset
We utilize our beautiful Montana backdrop as much as possible when it comes to the physical aspect of our program. A mix of outdoor activities like hiking and skiing, along with holistic practices like breathwork and yoga, help our students lower their heart rates, relieve their stress naturally, and rebuild self-confidence.
Support Through Spirit
Lastly, with our spiritual offerings, we aim to impart the wisdom and teachings of Jesus Christ (and other spiritual leaders) to help give your daughter the tools and resources she can lean on to make positive choices while her brain continues to develop. The spiritual part of her life will keep her lifted while the biological part catches up.
In the previously mentioned song, Will Smith sings “You know parents are the same, no matter time nor place. They don’t understand that us, kids, are going to make some mistakes. So to you, all the kids all across the land, there’s no need to argue – Parents just don’t understand.” That’s true, our kids are going to make mistakes, but at least now we have a better understanding of some of the reasons why.
While struggling with mental health issues can be difficult for anyone at any age. It can be particularly difficult for adolescents. There are many reasons why this is so, but one of the primary factors is that the adolescent brain is not fully developed. When the brain is not fully developed, it is more susceptible to negative long-term effects because the necessary development is impeded. It is scientifically agreed upon that the brain does not fully develop until someone is in their mid to late 20s. This is why it is so important to get your daughter help as soon as possible if you suspect she is struggling. For more information, please call Clearview Girls Academy at (888) 796-5484.