The Teenage Brain: Impacts on Learning

The teenage brain is complex. This crucial period of growth continues to develop into the mid-20s. Much like toddlers, teenagers undergo significant growth spurts, physically, cognitively, and emotionally. During this time, they often exhibit an attitude of “I know what I’m doing,” which can lead to learning challenges.

One change in the teenage brain involves the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The amygdala, responsible for emotions, tends to be more active in teens, leading to risky behavior, pleasure seeking, and impulsivity. In contrast, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and impulse control, is still maturing. This imbalance can affect a teenager’s ability to make informed choices, impacting their focus and dedication to schoolwork.

Teenagers need individuation and non-familial role models. They also crave inclusion among peers, which can lead them astray in pursuit of social acceptance. Stress can hinder their ability to concentrate and engage in productive study habits.

To help teenagers navigate this tumultuous phase, it is important to recognize their desire to be respected, heard, and validated. Real connections with others are crucial, but often difficult to achieve during this stage. Instead of imposing consequences, allowing them to come up with their own consequences can be helpful and, when necessary, sharing what you would do in a similar situation.

Guiding teenagers towards healthier behaviors by reframing them as acts of defiance against risky choices can be a powerful strategy. Encouraging them to reimagine their choices can lead to better outcomes both academically and personally.

Understanding the intricacies of the teenage brain is vital when it comes to learning. Recognizing their need for respect, inclusion, and connection, and guiding them with empathy and support, can help teenagers navigate this challenging phase while making the most of their educational journey.
Thank you, Dan Ascher, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, whose presentation made this article possible.

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