When you hear the word “adolescence” what goes through your mind? I recently realised as I spoke to my oldest son about his approaching teen years that I often speak negatively about this stage of life. Since then, with the help of a book called “Brainstorm: the power and purpose of the teenage brain” I have been able to see the positive possibilities of the teenage years.
Below are two ways of viewing and dealing with the challenges of adolescence.
During adolescents our minds change in the what we remember, think, reason, focus attention, make decisions and relate to others. The brain changes in early teen years set up four qualities: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity and creative exploration.
Novelty seeking: emerges from an increased drive for reward in the circuits of the adolescent brain that creates the inner motivation to try something new and feel life more fully, creating more engagement in life.
|Sensation seeking and risk taking over emphasise thrill and downplays risk resulting in dangerous behaviours and injury. Impulsivity can turn an idea into an action without a pause to reflect on the consequences.||Being open to change and living passionately emerge, as the exploration of novelty is honed into a fascination for life and a drive to design new ways of doing things and living with a sense of adventure.|
Social engagement: enhances peer connectedness and creates new friendship.
|Teens isolated from adults and surrounded only by other teens have increased-risk behaviour, and the total rejection of adults and adult knowledge and reasoning increases those risks.||The drive for social connection leads to the creation of supportive relationships that are the research-proven best predictors of well-being, longevity, happiness throughout the life span.|
Increased emotional intensity: gives an enhanced vitality to life.
|Intense emotions may rule the day, leading to impulsivity, moodiness, and extreme, sometimes unhelpful reactivity.||Life lived with emotional intensity can be filled with energy and a sense of vital drive that gives an exuberance and zest for life.|
Creative exploration: with an expanding sense of consciousness. An adolescent’s conceptual thinking and abstract reasoning allow questioning of the status quo, approaching problems with “out of the box” strategies, creating new ideas and the emergence of innovation.
|Searching for meaning of life during the teen years can lead to a crisis of identity, vulnerability to peer pressure, and a lack of direction and purpose.||If the mind can hold on to thinking and imagining and perceiving the world in new ways and of creatively exploring the spectrum of experiences possible, the sense of being in a rut that can sometimes pervade adult life can be minimised and instead an experience of the “ordinary being extraordinary” can be cultivated.|