It’s no question that the brain is going through changes as children enter adolescence and begin to transition into adulthood. Teenagers especially are becoming more aware socially, taking increasing amounts of risks and being influenced by the pressure of their peers. When I was in middle school, you could take a language or health in eighth grade. I wanted to take French, but it was only offered in high school at the time, so I decided to take health. Although, my school’s version of health was how to eat right and be healthy. The brain is certainly something worth keeping in good health, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn about. If schools incorporated the idea of teaching more on the brain, teenagers can be more prepared and have answers to questions about why they feel certain ways. Here at TomTod, we want the young people that we work with to be successful. In order to encourage them further, it takes a little understanding of some of the processes they might be going through.
Elissa Nadworny recently wrote an article on MindShift about the ever-changing teenage brain and the importance of understanding it. She interviewed Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, author of Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, to key in on how adults think, problem solve, and learn. We think the concepts found in this book are so worthwhile, that our staff are each actually working through reading the book on their own!
Here are three points she makes throughout the interview about a healthy brain:
Catching Some Zzzz’s
First, there’s sleep. While it can be a common struggle of the modern teen, it can also be their best friend. Blakemore wants people to know that sleep is important— more than we might think. Teenagers tend to stay up later because of this, resulting in being more tired in the morning. According to Blakemore, some schools that have been adjusting start times to determine any educational benefits for students.
In order to understand and ask why we must know a subject thoroughly. Blakemore touches upon the importance of teenagers learning about their own brains. Teenagers are more vulnerable to mental illness at this age and often have their first experience with it during these years. It’s important that they begin to understand the biological and social reasons why. Educators can be implementing lessons about the teenage brain into biology courses. But, they aren’t the only ones. Parents can also help by encouraging and educating their kids about the different types of struggles they might start to go through at this age.
Being Social, but not too social
Social media, although it can be fun, can come with consequences that can take effect on us that we probably don’t notice. Blakemore mentions that the young people she works with don’t turn their phones off at night and respond to messages throughout the night, which has its effects on sleep that is needed for proper mental health and learning. Teenagers don’t want to feel left out. They want to fit in with their friends. Social media gives them an opportunity to be engaged in social connections all throughout the day. At this point in their lives, teenagers look to peers or elders as examples that help shape them as they grow into adolescence. Parents can help to set good examples by showing good habits early on. Not being on social media for long hours during the day can have more effects than one might think on a young teen. Talking about how to stay safe while on social media is a good topic to introduce to teenagers so they can be wary of what’s going on in their social media and try to stay out of trouble with others.
I encourage you to read this entire article. It’s important to be aware of how our own bodies work—especially our brains! The human brain is so powerful, and we can’t function without it. Here at TomTod, we encourage young people to understand more about themselves as they make this transition into adolescence. We encourage young people to find their voice and share their ideas.