The Roller Coaster Ride of Adolescent Brain Development
All of the sparkles in this image represents how much is going on in your child’s brain right now if they are an adolescent.
Beginning as early as 10 years old, the excitement begins beneath the skull. You remember the fascinating changes that happened almost daily when your child was only about 1-2 years old and they learned to walk and talk. That same big jump in development is happening in their brain now, and rather than walking, they are running as fast as they can toward independence from you. And while they are running, they are letting you know how they feel about everything.
You remember it being much more fun to watch them take their first few steps. You remember the look on their face when they spied something they wanted that was far away; struggle to stand to get to it, wobble around on the way, maybe fall and get up a few times. Finally, they are thrilled when they grasp the object of their attention.
Maturing through adolescence is very similar to learning to walk. With each new idea or desire the pattern is repeated and new pathways are forged in their brain so they remember what worked and what didn’t.
- First, they get an idea that sounds perfect to them and usually includes friends.
- Second, they know you might not be thrilled about their plan, but they are willing to fight through to a victory over you no matter how painful.
- Third, if the plan was a good one, they will be happy for a while until they come up with the next most important idea that absolutely must happen. If the plan did not work out so well, after a period of mourning in their room without talking to anyone, they will quickly move to the new plan and start the process all over again.
When you read between the lines, this maturing process can throw you into turmoil every day and maybe even several times a day. It is unpleasant, but normal. It has a purpose. One day, you will be admiring your young adult as they slowly take over the decisions for their own life and are grateful to you for hanging in there with them on the rollercoaster ride.
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