Understanding the teenage brain

November 2, 2011 8:15:36 PM PDT
Anyone with a teenager knows the sweet adorable years of childhood where they idolize everything you do can often be replaced by, "I know so much more than you".

Well there is a reason for all of this and it comes down to their brain which is definitely a work in progress.

Bridget Grady picked up her 17-year-old daughter Kieran from school on Staten Island and wondered: what sort of teenage drama can we expect today?

"And it could be anything from, 'I can't find my jeans' to 'I need money for a trip,' you know, anything," Grady said.

Grady's experience is no different from millions of other parents of teenagers: adolescents who possess titanic mood swings; who engage in risky behavior; who fail to consider the consequences of their decisions.

And that leaves parents asking the often futile question, 'what were you thinking?!'

"A lot of what they do is not thought out. They don't anticipate the consequences. They don't anticipate the fact that what they are doing could impact them later on. And they often simply do it because at the moment it seemed like a good idea," said Dr. Alan Hilfer, Chief Psychologist, Maimonides Medical Center.

So as a parent, how then do you plant some common sense into a teenager's still developing brain? Dr. Hilfer, thankfully, has some advice.

#1: Engage your teen in a discussion, not a lecture; about how and why they might do things differently the next time around.

#2: In that discussion parents, get to the point. Don't drone on endlessly. Believe it or not, your son or daughter heard you the first time.

"Oh my God, all the time. It's kind of like, 'Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room. Do this. Hold that.' It's always the same," Kieran Grady said.

#3: Keep a close eye on who your teenager is friends with.

"If you are in a more reckless peer group, you are trying to up the ante and improve on a friend's behavior and sometimes that's what gets kids into trouble," Dr. Hilfer said.

Staying out of trouble is really the goal for teens, even if their brains are still developing.