Open Accessibility Menu

The Teenage Brain and You

  • Posted On:
The Teenage Brain and You

Teenagers. The scary, impulsive and oftentimes reckless creatures that keep even the most seasoned parent awake at night. What makes them change so rapidly from a sweet child to an angsty, angry, half-adult that’s hard to recognize? Parents, sigh with relief because most of the time, it’s less about your parenting skills and more about development. Science points to their brains.

The human mind is an enigma. Though we have practices such as neurosurgery and psychiatry, the operations and mysteries of the mind are still being discovered.

Research shows that an active adolescent brain works much differently than an adult brain when making decisions or solving problems. Guided by the amygdala– the part of the brain responsible for immediate fear responses and aggressive behavior– teens tend to make decisions based more on emotions and reactions rather than a logical thought out process. This is due to the under-developed frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and allows us to think before we act. This part of the brain is still developing well into adulthood.

Another development within the adolescent brain is the connection between brain cells making pathways effective for communication.

Because of all of these changes, teenagers are more likely to act on impulse, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, get into accidents, get into fights, and engage in dangerous or risky behavior. These changes can also unearth mental disorders within adolescents that may or may not fade away over time.

As a parent, it can be challenging to navigate the rough seas of adolescents; almost as challenging as it is for your teenager. After all, they do not understand the changes to their brain and the immense developmental undertaking their body is experiencing. Just as you don’t know why they may be acting a certain way, it is quite possible that they don’t know either. Luckily, the narrative for the angsty, monstrous teen is shifting.

What was seen as immaturity is now perceived as cognitive behavioral and neurological flexibility, allowing them to explore and adapt to the inconstant world around them.


“The shift from childhood to adulthood is not a linear one. Adolescence is a time of wonderfully dynamic change in the brain.”

- Dr. BJ Casey (Yale University)


So as your child transforms from your well-mannered, parent-loving angel into a vicious, were-teen when the moons of puberty arise, remember these helpful tips on what they are experiencing and how you can help.

  • The teen brain is ready to learn and adapt. The teen brain has lots of plasticity, which means it can change, adapt, and respond to its environment. Challenging academics or mental activities, exercise, and creative activities such as art can help the brain mature and learn.

  • Adolescents may be more vulnerable to stress. Because the amygdala is responsible for emotional responses, adolescents are at a stage in life where passions rage over everything. Friends, love, school, how their bodies look, their reputation– all of these things are leading with emotional pressure weighing heavily on your child. Compassion and understanding goes a long way even if we don’t fully understand why they might be feeling stressed.

  • Teens need more sleep than both children and adults. Teenagers should be getting an average of 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Research shows that melatonin levels in teens are naturally higher later and night and drop later into the morning. This could potentially explain why your teen wants to stay up until 1 o’clock in the morning and not get out of bed until 11 AM. Lack of sleep can make it difficult to focus, increase impulsive behavior and heighten the risk of irritability or depression.

  • The teenage brain is resilient. Though the many changes going on inside their brains can cause some problems, most teens go on to become healthy, high functioning adults. They may even develop resistance to long term mental disorders during this phase of life.

  • Parents are still important to them. Though you may not feel like an essential part of your teenager’s life anymore, and friends have taken your place, remember that your child still needs you. You mean a lot to them and your guidance and influence will be important in helping them build a healthy mind.

If you are struggling with the frightening changes while your child develops into a teenager, know that CCH is here to help. Campbell County Medical Group (CCMG) Pediatrics provides complete healthcare for children, from infancy to 21 years of age.

Our Kid Clinic also provides primary medical care and counseling services to children and adolescents. For more information on what you can do to help your teen through this dramatic and scary time, contact CCMG Pediatrics at 307-688-3636 or the Kid Clinic at 307-688-7800.



American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2016, September). Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). What’s Going On in the Teenage Brain?

National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). NIMH» The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know.


  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic, Campbell County Medical Group Pediatrics