Adolescence is a tough developmental stage because during this part of their life kids are pulled in opposite directions. They have one foot still in childhood, with all the dependence of that age, and the other foot in adulthood,  stepping toward independence. Adolescents are given the task of acquiring a sense of individuality while also maintaining a close relationship with their parents. They are expected to take on some adult responsibilities while not yet being given adult privileges. Not surprisingly, adolescence is a difficult and confusing time for kids.

To handle this paradoxical stage of development, the adolescent brain grows a whole new set of brain genes. These particular genes have been present but quiet since birth, waiting to switch on during puberty. Neuronal growth and pruning occur in adolescents at a level unmatched since their early development in the womb.

As teenagers move into adulthood and gain the independence that goes with it, they have the potential to sculpt their brains. They can be learning educationally, socially, and personally through new experiences. Because kids tend to learn best from play, it is important to help your teen learn to play in age-appropriate ways. For some kids, that may mean reading, and for others it may mean tapping their interest in music, art, sports, science, or world geography. Evidence suggests that play-related activities are a key component in the acquisition of long-term life skills and a sense of fulfillment.

Knowledge about brain development can help parents better understand their teen’s behaviors and their teen’s abilities. Parents and teens can grow together.

More to consider: Talk and listen . . .

Be ready to talk with and listen to your teen. Evidence suggests that teens who thrive have relationships with parents and teachers who are warm, firm, and fair.