As a mother of two 20-somethings, University of Pennsylvania neurologist Dr. Frances E. Jensen is a confessed “survivor” of raising teens. Her new book, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, outlines why teens sometimes make bad decisions. It’s because the brain isn’t fully formed until about age 25. We asked her to share three big ideas from her book.
1. What’s different between teens now and 30 or 40 years ago? The range of choice that they have. The Internet, media and social media provide so many distractions, they're exposed to a lot. They have a relative weakness in controlling impulses and judgment because there are too many choices.
2. Intelligence is not finite; it can increase over time. Many cultures “stream” teens around age 13 into academic or vocational programs depending on their shown aptitudes and intelligence. To close the door on opportunities at that age may be a bit premature. Kids can really come into their own, change, become smarter in high school.
3. Help make choosing post-secondary options less stressful for your teen. If you're adding to their stress, not only do you increase the chances that they'll have anxiety or depression later, you're also impairing their ability to learn.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2015.