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The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

By Daniel J. Siegel
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Brainstorm by Daniel J. Siegel

Brainstorm (2014) is devoted to the many mysteries and secrets of the teenage brain. These blinks debunk lazy stereotypes about adolescents and paint a more positive picture. Our teenage years aren’t just a period of hormonal and cognitive disarray; they’re also a crucial phase in the brain’s development.

Key idea 1 of 8

The behavior of teenagers is perfectly normal.

There’s no point beating about the bush. Everyone knows that adolescence is a “difficult time.” Even parents and teachers often roll their eyes and sigh when talking about teenagers.

While interactions with adolescents might be a struggle, there’s no need to think of them as some sort of war. What teenagers are going through is totally understandable.

Young children generally admire their parents without question. But adolescence is a new phase. All of a sudden they’re embarrassed by their parents. And when they’re not mortified by them, they’re hypercritical.

This experience can get annoying for parents. Sometimes it’s even hurtful.

But if adults spend some time understanding the rationale behind teenage behaviors, they can be easier to tolerate.

Teenagers are essentially preparing themselves for going out into the world alone.

From this perspective, teenagers’ criticisms of their parents are just a way for them to develop a healthy emotional distance. In other words, when the time comes – and it will – for them to leave the nest, it will be easier for them to do so.

This is also why they are so fond of trying out new things and are constantly connecting with other people their age. Experiences such as these are essentially teenagers just trying to work out what life will be like as a grown up living without parents.

It can be difficult for parents to accept teenagers’ new behavioral tendencies in adolescence. But they have to accept that their little ones now have a real need to free themselves.

Not that there isn’t a danger in all this adolescent adventuring, of course. Reckless risk-taking – such as joyriding or drunk driving – can have serious consequences.

But it’s not all bad news. Fortunately, there are ways to use this energy for good. We’ll explore these lower-risk scenarios soon. But first, let’s have a closer look at the teenage brain.

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