Adolescent brains are undergoing significant growth and development. The rational part of a teen’s brain (prefrontal cortex) is the last part of the brain to be fully developed. This is the part of the brain that helps to make good judgments and understand long-term consequences for actions. It is not fully developed until 25yrs or so. Consequently, teenagers are prone to risk-taking behaviour as their brain seeks new experiences and makes new connections.
Teens process information with the emotional part of their brain (amygdala). Their responses to situations will be based upon what they are feeling at the time and not what they are thinking. As the brain is still developing, thinking and behaviour will alternate between mature and illogical, impulsive and emotional.
In addition, teenage brains are becoming more efficient through ‘pruning’. Unused connections in the thinking and processing part of the brain are lost while others are strengthened – it’s the “use it or lose it” principle. Teenagers will experience forgetfulness, particularly when it comes to things they don’t consider important.
During adolescence sleep patterns will change. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is being produced at different times of the day. Teens may not feel tired and ready for bed until much later into the night, making it difficult to get up the next morning. Since sleep is essential to healthy brain development, a comfortable, quiet sleeping environment and regular routines that include a 2-hour non-screen time before bed are advised. On average, teenagers need 8-10 hours each night.
The developing brain is more vulnerable to stress factors than the adult brain so it’s important to support and nurture teens without being over-protective.
At CCC teachers structure lessons to include opportunities for students revise, practise and reflect to consolidate learning and strengthen neural pathways.
– Article by Vicki Venz (Head of Middle Years)