Remain calm and caring

While we have a better understanding of the teenage brain we still have difficulty understanding of why the emotions present themselves the way they do, and in particular the unexplained anger towards parents and guardians. We know and see the physical changes happening as teenagers go through puberty, we are now aware that their circadian rhythms, sleep cycles are changing which contributes to the behaviour change but research shows that the teens perception of emotion may be processed in different parts of the brain than in adults, and is also impulsive and reactive. As the brain’s executive functions in the pre frontal cortex is developing in teens it seems that while this is happening the brain redirects that emotional processing to the Amygdala for a response. The Amygdala is the part of the brain that responds to fear normally by triggering anger, it is a survival response, reactive and difficult to control. What this means that often teens misread adult communication and non-verbal cues, interpreting a disapproving look from an adult as “I hate you” which then tends to escalates the situation into a conflict. Therefore while we also understand that it is normal to have conflict within families and in particular with teens, adults need to be able to regulate their own emotions in heated situation and role model appropriate response behaviour, even stopping the conflict to allow everyone to calm down. Those who can remain calm and caring during these difficult conversation provide a presence that is stable and reassuring for the teenager going through their stage of development. There some great resources on the SCCR website related to this but I would also be interested to hear from others about how they understand the teenage brain and self-regulation.

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